Gun control measures in the Virginia General Assembly

Mike Still • Jan 2, 2020 at 6:30 PM

The Virginia General Assembly will see several measures echoing Gov. Ralph Northam’s unsuccessful attempt to pass gun control legislation last July.

With a Democratic majority taking over the Senate and House of Delegates, several counties and localities have passed resolutions opposing what they see as moves by Northam and state Democratic legislators to interfere with gun owners’ rights.

Among the measures prefiled before the General Assembly session begins on Jan. 9 are:

— Minors’ access to unsecured firearms: Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston, and Del. Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church, have filed Senate Bill 75 and House Bill 72. Howell’s bill would make it a Class 3 misdemeanor to leave loaded, unsecured firearms in a manner that would endanger anyone under the age of 18. Current state law sets the age threshold at under 14. Kory’s bill would raise the penalty for leaving loaded, unsecured firearms in the same manner from a misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony.

— Assault weapons: Sen Richard Saslaw, D-Springfield, filed Senate Bill 16, which would expand the definition of an assault firearm and prohibit the sale, rental or trade of those weapons. Saslaw’s measure also would prohibit the sale or transfer of firearm magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds.

— Weapons and protective orders: Howell’s Senate Bill 76 would prohibit persons subject to a permanent protective order from having firearms while that order is in effect. Senate Bill 82, from Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, would impose a three-year mandatory minimum sentence for persons convicted of violating a protective order while knowingly armed with a firearm or other deadly weapon.

— Background checks: Saslaw and Del. Kenneth Plum, D-Reston, have offered separate versions of background check legislation for firearms purchases. Saslaw’s Senate Bill 18 raises the minimum age for gun purchases and for possession of guns from 18 to 21 and would make background checks mandatory for sellers at gun shows while providing other exemptions. Plum’s House Bill 2 also would make background checks mandatory for gun show sellers while providing exemptions for transfers between immediate family members, through estates.

— Firearm use qualification: House Bill 192, from Del. Robert Orrock, R-Thornburg, would require firearms purchasers to demonstrate competence with a firearm in a manner now required for persons applying for concealed handgun permits.

— Stolen firearms: Del. Jeffrey M. Bourne, D-Richmond, filed House Bill 9, which requires lawful owners of stolen firearms to report the loss or theft of weapons to local law enforcement or the State Police within 24 hours after discovering the theft. Violation of the provision would mean a $250 fine and civil violation. The owner of a stolen firearm would be immune from criminal or civil liability resulting from the gun theft, and antique firearms would be exempt from the reporting.

— Firearms and paramilitary activities: Senate Bill 64, by Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, would make it a Class 5 felony for persons found guilty of drilling, parading or marching with any firearm, explosive, incendiary device or their components with the intent of intimidating persons or groups.

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