Virginia House Democrat majority passes series of gun control measures

by WorldTribune Staff, February 2, 2020

The Democrat-controlled Virginia House of Delegates took its assault on the Second Amendment to the next level on Thursday by approving several new gun control measures.

The new laws include confiscating guns from person deemed a “substantial risk”; criminal penalties for firearms transfers without required background checks; a criminal penalty for not reporting a lost or stolen firearms; allowing local governments to enact their own gun control ordinances; making it a felony to not secure firearms that the legislation says then become a danger to children; and limits the number of handguns an individual can purchase to one in a 30-day period.

Virginia House of Delegates chamber. / Virginia General Assembly photo

The legislation, which passed largely along party lines (Democrats have 55 seats and Republicans 45), will now go to the Democrat-controlled Senate for a vote.

“For too many years this body has put the convenience of gun owners above all else,” said Democratic Del. Patrick Hope.

Republicans said law-abiding gun owners would be unfairly penalized by the new laws.

“Once you lose one freedom, you tend to lose your other freedoms,” said Republican Del. John McGuire.

Here is a look at the new firearms legislation:

House Bill 2 (passed by a vote of 54-46)

Firearm transfers; criminal history record information checks; penalty. Requires a background check for any firearm transfer and directs the Department of State Police (the Department) to establish a process for transferors to obtain such a check from licensed firearms dealers. A transferor who sells a firearm to another person without obtaining the required background check is guilty of a Class 6 felony. The bill also provides that a transferee who receives a firearm from another person without obtaining the required background check is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The bill exempts transfers (i) between immediate family members; (ii) that occur by operation of law; (iii) by the executor or administrator of an estate or by the trustee of a testamentary trust; (iv) at firearms shows in accordance with law; (v) that are part of a buy-back or give-back program; (vi) of antique firearms; (vii) that occur at a shooting range, shooting gallery, or any other area designed for the purpose of target shooting, for use during target practice, a firearms safety or training course or class, a shooting competition, or any similar lawful activity; or (viii) that are temporary transfers that (a) occur within the continuous presence of the owner of the firearm or (b) are necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.

The bill removes the provision that makes background checks of prospective purchasers or transferees at firearms shows voluntary. The bill also provides that the Department shall have three business days to complete a criminal history record information check before a firearm may be transferred. The bill establishes an appropriation for the fiscal impact of the bill and authorizes the Director of the Department of Planning and Budget to allocate such appropriation among the agencies and programs impacted by the bill.

The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) said the bill “criminalizes private transfers of firearms without first paying fees, with limited exceptions. Most transfers between friends, neighbors, or fellow hunters are not exempted. These proposals would have no impact on crime and are completely unenforceable.”

House Bill 9 (passed by a vote of 55-44)

Reporting lost or stolen firearms; civil penalty. Requires that, if a firearm is lost or stolen from a person who lawfully possessed it, such person shall report the loss or theft of the firearm to any local law-enforcement agency or the Department of State Police within 24 hours after such person discovers the loss or theft or is informed by a person with personal knowledge of the loss or theft.

The bill requires the relevant law-enforcement agency to enter the report information into the National Crime Information Center. A violation is punishable by a civil penalty of not more than $250. The bill provides that a person who, in good faith, reports the loss or theft is immune from criminal or civil liability for acts or omissions that result from the loss or theft. The immunity does not apply to a person who knowingly gives a false report. The bill does not apply to the loss or theft of an antique firearm.

The NRA-ILA said the law “victimizes gun owners who suffer loss or theft of their property with a fine if they don’t report a lost or stolen firearm within 24 hours of discovering them missing.”

House Bill 421 (passed by a vote of 50-48)

Control of firearms by localities. Grants localities authority to adopt or enforce an ordinance, resolution, or motion governing the possession, carrying, storage, or transporting of firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof in the locality. Various provisions limiting such authority are repealed. Provisions limiting the authority of localities and state governmental entities to bring lawsuits against certain firearms manufacturers and others are also repealed.

The bill also provides an exception to the requirement that an ordinance enacted regarding the disposition of certain firearms acquired by localities must provide that any firearm received be offered for sale by public auction or sealed bids to a person licensed as a dealer. The bill allows such ordinance to provide that if the individual surrendering the firearm requests in writing that the firearm be destroyed, then such firearm will be destroyed by the locality.

The NRA-ILA said the bill “allows local governments to enact their own gun control ordinances, potentially resulting in a patchwork of laws and the Second Amendment not being protected across the state.”

House Bill 1083 (passed by a vote of 54-46)

Allowing access to firearms by minors; penalty. Provides that any person who recklessly leaves a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any person under the age of 18 is guilty of a Class 6 felony. Current law provides that any person who recklessly leaves a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of 14 is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

The NRA-ILA said the bill “severely restricts parental decisions about firearms in the home while attaching excessive penalties for violations.”

House Bill 674 (passed by a vote of 52-46)

Firearms; removal from persons posing substantial risk; penalties. Creates a procedure by which any attorney for the Commonwealth or any law-enforcement officer may apply to a general district court, circuit court, or juvenile and domestic relations district court judge or magistrate for an emergency substantial risk order to prohibit a person who poses a substantial risk of injury to himself or others from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm. If an emergency substantial risk order is issued, a judge or magistrate may issue a search warrant to remove firearms from such person. An emergency substantial risk order shall expire on the fourteenth day following issuance of the order. The bill requires a court hearing in the circuit court for the jurisdiction where the order was issued within 14 days from issuance of an emergency substantial risk order to determine whether a substantial risk order should be issued.

Seized firearms shall be retained by a law-enforcement agency for the duration of an emergency substantial risk order or a substantial risk order or, for a substantial risk order and with court approval, may be transferred to a third party 21 years of age or older chosen by the person from whom they were seized. The bill allows the complainant of the original warrant to file a motion for a hearing to extend the substantial risk order prior to its expiration. The court may extend the order for a period not longer than 180 days.

The bill provides that persons who are subject to a substantial risk order, until such order has been dissolved by a court, are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor for purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm; are disqualified from having a concealed handgun permit; and may not be employed by a licensed firearms dealer. The bill also provides that a person who transfers a firearm to a person he knows has been served with a warrant or who is the subject of an order is guilty of a Class 4 felony. The bill creates a computerized substantial risk order registry for the entry of orders issued pursuant to provisions in the bill.

The NRA-ILA said the bill “allows the seizure of an individual’s firearms on baseless accusations without a hearing or other opportunity for the person to be heard in court. It permits the government to seize firearms based on weak evidence and nebulous standards of evidence. A person subject to a suspension of a Constitutional right should be entitled to high evidentiary standards, an opportunity to be heard, and the right to face his or her accusers. Civil liberties advocates from across the political spectrum have expressed concerns on these ‘red flag’ bills and how the procedure might lead to abuses of the process because of insufficient due process protections in the bill.”

House Bill 812 (passed by a vote of 53-47)

Purchase of handguns; limitation on handgun purchases; penalty. Prohibits any person who is not a licensed firearms dealer from purchasing more than one handgun in a 30-day period and makes such an offense a Class 1 misdemeanor. The bill exempts from this provision (i) persons who have been issued a certificate by the Department of State Police under certain circumstances and with an enhanced background check, (ii) law-enforcement agencies and officers, (iii) state and local correctional facilities, (iv) licensed private security companies, (v) persons whose handgun has been stolen or irretrievably lost or who are trading in a handgun, and (vi) purchases of antique firearms.

The NRA-ILA says the bill “arbitrarily rations an individual’s right to lawfully purchase a handgun to once within 30 days.”


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