After months of anticipation, Virginia Democrats finally held a vote on three proposed anti-gun measures yesterday, and all three passed along party lines.
The three bills require background checks on all firearm sales (SB 70), limit handgun purchases to one per month (SB 69), and allow localities to ban guns from public events (SB 35).
According to ABC 13: Democrats said they were reasonable measures that would improve public safety while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. They said the public had made clear by voting for Democrats in recent elections that new gun laws were needed.
Republicans decried the legislation as an assault on the Second Amendment launched to appease special interest groups and donors such as Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg. GOP senators said the new laws would entrap innocent people and do nothing to stop bad actors.
On the bright side, the most controversial bill, SB 16, which included the ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks, and silencers, was killed. That aside, this is yet the first stage in a wave of anti-gun legislation to come.
Governor Ralph Northam has a package of gun legislation that he’s pushing for that include prohibiting all individuals subject to final protective orders from possessing firearms, requiring that lost and stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement within 24 hours, and creating an Extreme Risk Protective Order.
Other legislation that has been filed includes banning indoor shooting ranges at offices where there are more than 50 employees. That would include a shooting range at the NRA headquarters, which is located in northern Virginia. That bill has been referred to the Committee on Public Safety.
And those are just the gun control measures they’ve conjured up for now. No amount of regulation is ever enough.
For Virginia Democrats, passing gun control is the easy part. Enforcing it is a whole other story. In less than six weeks after Virginia Democrats initially began discussing gun control, 90% of the state’s countries (containing 40% of the population but the majority of the gun owners) became “Second Amendment sanctuaries” that refused to enforce any new gun laws. Further complicating things, cash purchases of the exact firearms Virginia Democrats want to eventually ban outright began to surge. Perhaps the unenforceqability of confiscation without an existing registry is why they dropped that bill (for now, at least).
So strong is the opposition to gun control that one Sheriff promised to deputize his entire town if gun control laws were enacted, which would exempt his citizens from them. One West Virginia lawmaker offered to annex Virginia’s sanctuaries counties to exempt them from gun control with a bill trolling Virginia’s lawmakers.
The worst of the gun control bills is now dead – but is there any doubt it would’ve been passed yesterday without the fierce resistance we saw? Both sides scored some victories yesterday, but the battle is far from over. A bill nearly identical to SB 16 still remains alive on the other side of their General Assembly – and we can’t lose sight of that for a split second.