Gun rally in richmond 2

On Monday, Jan. 20, thousands of gun rights activists flocked to Richmond for a rally organized by Virginia Citizens Defense League. The protesters are opposed to proposed gun-control measures before the Democratically-controlled state legislature.

Courtesy of the Virginia Mercury

A Virginia Senate committee voted down an assault weapon bill Monday morning, blocking the most contentious piece of the Democratic gun control agenda.

The bill — which would have banned future sales of assault weapons and outlawed magazines capable of holding more than 12 rounds — had already been watered down from its original form in order to pass the House of Delegates.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s 10-5 vote Monday morning confirmed the more moderate upper chamber had little appetite to impose new regulations on the type of weaponry Virginians can legally buy. After the vote, gun rights supporters who had packed the room broke into applause and cheers.

Democrats won majorities in both General Assembly chambers last year after making gun control a marquee campaign issue. But the party never seemed to unify behind a specific approach to regulating assault weapons. A bill to impose a sweeping ban on possession of assault weapons was pulled from consideration by Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-35th, of Fairfax, and the bill being considered Monday had undergone significant revisions to get as far as it did.

Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-25th, of Bath, suggested postponing consideration of the bill for a year and having the Virginia State Crime Commission study its definitions of what qualifies as an assault weapon. 

Deeds was joined by three other Democrats — Sens. Chap Petersen, D-34th, of Fairfax, Scott Surovell, D-36th, who represents Prince William, Fairfax and Stafford counties, and John Edwards, D-21st, of Roanoke — in voting for the motion to continue the bill to 2021.

Monday’s vote wasn’t unexpected, and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-41st, of Fairfax, quickly issued a statement criticizing the Senate panel’s decision.

“The Democratic platform last fall was very clear. Limiting access to weapons of war used in mass murder was a key part of that platform,” Filler-Corn said. “The House of Delegates delivered on our promise to take action to keep those weapons off our streets. To call today’s vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee a disappointment would be an understatement.”

A handful of Democrats also opposed the bill when it passed the House last week on a 51-48 vote.

The bill also had the support of Gov. Ralph Northam. At Monday’s hearing, Northam’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said the legislation had been “mischaracterized.”

“It does not amount to a gun grab,” Moran said. “It is not registration. It is not unconstitutional. It does not make our fellow Virginians felons overnight.”

Several gun control proponents, including multiple parents of victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, said the bill would save lives.

“What else can we say to you?” said Lori Haas, the Virginia director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence whose daughter was wounded in the Virginia Tech shooting. “People are dying, and you care more about a piece of hardware.”

The legislation also would have imposed new restrictions on silencers and banned bump stocks, devices meant to allow semi-automatic firearms to fire at a faster rate, mimicking automatic gunfire.

As drafted, the bill would have required Virginians who already own assault weapons to register them with the state for a $50 fee. That provision was later removed, allowing those who already own assault weapons to keep them without taking any additional action. But pro-gun advocates said the end result was still unworkable.

D.J. Spiker, Virginia director for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, said that because the bill would have made it a felony to “import” an assault weapon, someone taking their gun on an out-of-state hunting trip would potentially violate the law by bringing it home.

“It has unfortunately turned into a Frankenstein,” Spiker said of the bill.

Though blocking the assault weapon bill was a top priority for pro-gun groups, other high-profile gun bills are well on their way to Northam’s desk. 

Both chambers have passed bills to require background checks on all gun sales, create risk protection orders that would allow authorities to temporarily seize guns from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others and give cities, counties and towns more power to impose local gun restrictions.

Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, said his group will continue to fight all of the legislation.

“This is a great victory on one bill,” he said. “It’s one battle in a war.”

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(5) comments

AngryBob

I guess someone reminded them the federal ban of 1994 (a much less restrictive law than this) cost the dems both houses of congress in the following election.

Remember, folks, it's just postponed. It will be back.

hans

To be a fly on gusman's wall right now....

VAPatriot3%

Hurrah for this victory!!! This bill was totally unconstitutional, and yes, did aim to remove gun ownership from citizens. A "grandfather clause" just permits CURRENT owners from having those arms, but bans new residents or our future generations from doing so. This bill WOULD have made tens of thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens into felons overnight had it passed; the simple act of owning a magazine with over 12 rounds (which is the VAST majority of magazines) would have been a Class 1 Misdemeanor (punishable by up to a year in prison), and "transporting" such a magazine would have been a FELONY. So for just owning an inanimate piece of plastic and metal that I legally purchased previously I could go to jail for a year, and if I by accident had it in my car I could go to jail for 5 years. Can you say "violation of ex post facto" and stupid??? Northam and his Bloomberg backer money are terrible. But Bloomberg has done a few things for gun issues; A) he caused the largest mobilization of pro-gun patriots ever seen and caused 30,000 armed citizens to march on RIchmond B) he motivated the largest grassroots pro-gun effort ever seen in the US and caused 95% of the state's counties to declare themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries and C) he has driven sales of so called "assault weapons" and "high capacity" magazines through the freaking roof in VA (and all those weapons would have still been around had this bill passed so yeah, would NOT have "helped remove weapons from our streets"). Way to go Northam. You've really done a lot...

hans

Wouldn't it be better to remove criminals from our 'streets?'

But that would take away from the democrat base.

JoeK

It wouldnt matter. If Bernie wins, those that are in jail will be allowed to vote.

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