George Barker

State Sen. George Barker

RICHMOND -- A ‘red flag’ gun bill sponsored by Sen. George Barker, D-39th, to allow law enforcement to temporarily seize firearms from people found to be a danger to themselves or others passed a state Senate committee along party lines Monday morning. 

Barker represents constituents in Prince William County, Fairfax County and Alexandria City. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 9-5 to report the bill out of committee, with all nine Democrats voting in favor of the measure and all five Republicans voting against. It will now go to a floor vote in the state Senate at a date that hasn’t yet been scheduled. 

It’s one of several gun laws the new Democratic majorities are expected to pass during the 2020 General Assembly session that have been backed by Gov. Ralph Northam. 

Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran, speaking on behalf of Northam, said the governor strongly supports Barker’s bill and that the administration had spoken with a number of states that have passed similar laws. 

“We can adopt those best practices that have been adopted by those 17 states to ensure the effective and safe implementation of this law,” Moran said at the meeting. 

Red flag gun laws have been adopted by 17 states and Washington D.C. Moran also drew attention three state court cases in Connecticut, Indiana and Florida in which red flag gun laws had been challenged. 

Barker, addressing the committee, said the law had been successfully defended in court.

The bill creates a procedure by which any attorney for the commonwealth or any law-enforcement officer can apply to a general district court, circuit court, or juvenile and domestic relations district court judge for an emergency substantial risk order.

Republican lawmakers Sens. Richard Stuart, R-28th, Ben Chafin, R-38th, Mark Obenshain, R-26th, Ryan McDougle, R-4th, and Tommy Norment, R-3rd, voted against Barker’s proposed ‘red flag’ law. Stuart represents part of Prince William County.

Several lawmakers expressed concern that the law would violate citizens’ due process and Second Amendment rights. 

“You’re flipping due process and the Constitution on its head,” Stuart said. “This bill probably scares me more than any bill I’ve seen in the Senate of Virginia in the 12 years I’ve been here, because of the mischief that could be done with it.”

Philip Van Cleave, president of Virginia Citizens Defense League, also spoke out against the bill. VCDL has been at the center of the push to declare Virginia localities “Second Amendment sanctuaries.” Over 100 localities have passed either Second Amendment or “constitutional county” resolutions since Nov. 5, including Prince William County, which declared itself the latter in December. 

“If you were a danger to your family, you could still kill your family. They’ve just arrested the guns,” Van Cleave said about Barker’s bill. “You could be disarmed for life and you’ve done nothing wrong.” 

Democrats approved two additional gun bills – a watered down universal background check bill and a bill allowing localities to ban firearms in public buildings, parks and permitted events – at the same committee meeting. 

The latter bill was sponsored by state Sen. Scott Surovell, D-36th, who represents part of Prince William County.

Both bills will head to the floor of the state Senate for a full vote at a later date.

Reach Daniel Berti at

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(6) comments


Barker is from Sacramento and his term is up in 2024, SMH


Democrats hate due process with a holy hatred. It so gets in the way of their tyranny.

Concerned citizen

It was the democrat backed ACLU that changed the laws that allowed potentially dangerous people to be placed in institutions to keep everyone safe. Now they are using the same argument to take guns away. The hypocrisy shows that there is more behind these gun laws than promoting "safety".

Just read that multiple people were attacked in Colorado with knives. Better start hiding those too.


Using the same argument makes them consistent and not hypocritical.

Hypocrisy: Arguing that guns don't kill people, people kill people, and then opposing efforts to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Yes, people use knives. Has no impact on the argument except to say no one step is ever sufficient, which is true regardless, for this and many other things.

Concerned citizen

Please explain why we are now allowing people diagnosed with potentially violent behaviors to be free to roam, while legislators are focused on guns owned by sane, law abiding citizens. Years ago when we institutionalized those with violent behaviors, these shootings pretty much never occured. These mentally ill people will be able to get guns from the thriving illegal gun cartels regardless of laws passed. If they can't get a gun they have shown they will resort to any available weapon.

Perhaps if our legislators focused on cleaning up the drug and gun cartels, instead of focusing on law abiding citizens, a lot of problems can be solved.


Why are people on no fly lists either not in jail or deported?

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