Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday announced a comprehensive package of gun-safety bills he will send to the General Assembly for consideration this month.
The package includes measures to require universal background checks; establish an “extreme risk protective order"; reinstate Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month law; prohibit individuals subject to final protective orders from possessing firearms; ban assault firearms, as defined by the bill; prevent children from accessing firearms; and require individuals to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement.
‘Extreme risk protective order’
The bill establishing an extreme risk protective order, sponsored by Del. Rip Sullivan, D-48th, and Sen. George Barker, D-39th, creates a legal mechanism to temporarily separate a person from their firearms and prevent them from accessing guns when a court finds they pose “a substantial danger to themselves or others,” according to Northam’s news release.
The universal background check bill, sponsored by Del. Ken Plum, D-36th, and Sen. Louise Lucas, D-18th, would close a loophole in Virginia law and require background checks on all firearm sales, including private or online sales.
“Universal background checks are the only way that we can protect Virginians by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Lucas said in the release. “According to an April 2017 Quinnipiac Poll, 94 percent of Virginians are in support of universal background checks.”
Reinstate one-handgun-a-month law
Prior to its repeal in 2012, Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month law had been in effect for almost 20 years. Del. Jeion Ward, D-92nd, and Sen. Mamie Locke, D-2nd, will sponsor legislation to reinstate it. Virginia has been identified as a source of guns recovered in other states, and the bill would “help to prevent people from stockpiling firearms and transporting them for sale in other states,” the news release said.
The protective order bill, sponsored by Del. Kathleen Murphy, D-34th, and Sen. Janet Howell, D-32nd, would prevent any person subject to a final order of protection from purchasing, possessing or transporting firearms. It would also require these individuals to turn over their firearms within 24 hours and certify to the courts that the firearms have been transferred.
“Having lost a brother to gun violence, this issue is personal for me,” Murphy, who is the co-founder of the Gun Violence Prevention caucus and the co-chair of the Safe Virginia Initiative, said in the release.
Lost, stolen gun reporting, child access
The lost and stolen firearm bill, sponsored by Del. Jeff Bourne, D-71st, and Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-9th, would require that any person who loses or has a firearm stolen from their possession reports the loss or theft to law enforcement within 24 hours.
The child-access prevention bill, sponsored by Del. Cliff Hayes, D-77th, and Howell, would increase the penalty for leaving a loaded, unsecured firearm around a child and raises the age of a child in existing law from 14 to 18.
Assault gun ban
Del. Kathy Tran, D-42nd, and Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-30th, are sponsoring a bill to ban the sale, purchase, possession and transport of assault firearms in the commonwealth. The bill modifies the definition of assault firearm to “any firearm that is equipped with a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition.”
Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran described the package of proposals as reasonable and commonsense measures, the news release said.
“I want to thank Governor Northam…for advancing this commonsense legislative package that will undoubtedly enhance public safety and save lives,” he said. “I look forward to working with our partners in the General Assembly on both sides of the aisle to find common ground and pass these reasonable measures.”
Northam added: “I look forward to opening a dialogue with the General Assembly on this legislative package of reasonable gun violence reforms, which appropriately balances Second Amendment Rights with public safety.”
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