Virginia Senate Committee Advance 7 Gun-Control Bills

February 24, 2020 Updated: February 26, 2020

A Virginia Senate committee on Monday advanced seven House bills related to firearms restrictions that are now set to face a full vote on the Senate floor this week.

The seven bills were among a package of eight gun violence prevention legislation that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) had announced in a July 2019 special legislative session of the Virginia Assembly after a shooting at Virginia Beach that killed 12 people on May 31, 2019. That meeting ended without a vote and was adjourned to Nov. 18, 2019.

Last week, lawmakers voted against one of the eight measures Northam advocated for—a bill that would have banned Virginians from selling so-called assault weapons and owning high-capacity magazines. At the time, four Democratic senators broke with their party and joined Republicans to reject the measure in a 10–5 vote.

The seven bills advanced by the senators on Monday include universal background checks (House Bill 2), a limit on handgun purchases to one per month (House Bill 812), a “red flag” law (House Bill 674), penalizing gun owners who don’t report lost or stolen guns within 24 hours (House Bill 9), and allowing localities to ban arms from government buildings (House Bill 421).

Other bills included one that would restrict gun ownership for those convicted of domestic abuse and another that would make it a class 1 misdemeanor to allow a child under 14 access to a loaded gun—the offense is currently a class 3 misdemeanor.

“This is a historic step towards commonsense gun safety in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Northam’s spokesperson Alena Yarmosky wrote in an email to The Epoch Times. “Virginians are demanding real action to combat gun violence and save lives—that’s exactly what these bills will do.”

If the seven bills are passed in the Senate, they will have to be signed by Northam to become law.

Previously Northam has indicated that he would sign gun control measures into law.

Democrats in late 2019 won control of the state’s House and Senate chamber and promised to enact stronger gun control policies, saying it will help reduce shootings and deaths. The party now has full control of the General Assembly—for the first time in over two decades—and Virginia’s governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general are Democrats as well.

The state has become the latest focal point for the contentious American debate around the right to bear arms. Gun-rights groups contend that the U.S. Constitution guarantees their ability to possess any firearm. Those opposed say gun laws would help lessen the number of people killed by guns each year.

On Jan. 20, a gun-rights rally drew at least 22,000 Second Amendment advocates who called on state lawmakers to protect their right to bear arms.

Bowen Xiao and Reuters contributed to this report.

This article was updated to include a statement from Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

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