Virginia’s state Senate passed a “red flag” bill days after a massive gun rights rally opposing the legislation drew at least 22,000 Second Amendment advocates from across the country. Gun rights groups decried the move.
The legislation, SB 240, passed on Jan. 22 by a thin 21–19 margin and will head to the state’s House of Delegates where it’s also expected to pass. The bill will have to be approved by the House and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam to become law.
The bill, once signed into law, allows authorities to apply to certain courts for “an emergency substantial risk order to prohibit a person who poses a substantial risk of injury to himself or others from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm.”
Democrats recently won control of both chambers of the state legislature and have vowed to enact stronger gun control policies. They believe that stricter legislation will help reduce shootings and deaths. Northam has indicated previously that he would sign such legislation into law.
According to Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights, red flag laws allow the theft of personal property from law-abiding citizens who have committed no crime.
“It is an unconstitutional pre-crime program like you would expect to see in some communist backwater nation,” Brown told The Epoch Times via email.
Second Amendment advocates and gun rights supporters at the rally told The Epoch Times that the proposals passing through the General Assembly violate their constitutional rights.
Last week, the Virginia Senate passed a slew of gun control bills, including measures to require background checks on all firearms sales, limit handgun purchases to one per month, and restore local government powers to ban weapons from public buildings and other venues.
NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen told The Epoch Times the red flag bill “fails to address mental health concerns for individuals and falls far short on due process.”
It “also creates numerous false flag opportunities for law enforcement,” she said.
Following the Jan. 20 rally, Northam issued a statement saying he would “continue to listen to the voices of Virginians.” Meanwhile, a Change.org petition has garnered more than 68,000 signatures calling for the impeachment of Northam.
“Thousands of people came to Richmond to make their voices heard. Today showed that when people disagree, they can do so peacefully,” Northam said. “The issues before us evoke strong emotions, and progress is often difficult.”
Northam and other Democratic lawmakers in the state have credited their focus on gun control for helping them win full control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than two decades, according to The Associated Press.
“The way this works is we make laws and they’re reviewed by judges to determine their constitutionality. In many cases, bills very similar to this have been ruled constitutional,” Matt Rogers, chief of staff to Sen. David W. Marsden (D-Fairfax) told The Epoch Times via email.
Jake Rubenstein, spokesman for Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D), told CNN that the House would “deliver” for voters who support gun control measures.
“Virginians spoke loud and clear on Election Day demanding common-sense gun violence protections, and make no mistake, we will deliver on that mandate,” Rubenstein said.
There was a heavy police presence at the gun rights rally, and, overhead, security watched from rooftops on nearby buildings and on the Capitol itself. There was only one entrance and a number of security checkpoints to get onto the Capitol grounds.
The mood, however, was upbeat, and authorities said there were no arrests or injuries reported as of 1:40 p.m, with most people having left by that time.
“I think [gun control bills] are too radical,” Gwen Wells, who identifies as a liberal, told The Epoch Times after the rally.
“I think when you have too many extremes from one side or the other, you just alienate the people you need to work with to accomplish real change,” she said. “I think the power’s in the people, all the people who are represented by the entire constitution.”
“If I want my constitutional right to be protected, then I need to help other people keep their constitutional rights protected.”
The rally, also known as “Lobby Day,” is organized annually by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a nonprofit grassroots organization whose goal is to advance the right to keep and bear arms.