FPI / February 18, 2020
Virginia Democrats’ move to ban assault weapons was rejected by the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee on Monday.
Amid cheers from Second Amendment advocates who packed the committee room, the state Senate’s moderate Democrats joined Republicans in shelving the gun control legislation for the year. It was a major defeat for Gov. Ralph Northam, who made the law a top priority.
Four Democrats joined Republicans in Monday’s committee vote, rejecting legislation that would have prohibited the sale of certain semiautomatic firearms, including popular AR-15 style rifles.
The bill also would have banned the possession of magazines that hold more than 12 rounds.
The legislation, HB 961, passed the Democrat-controlled House of Delegates last week by a vote of 51-48.
“To call today’s vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee a disappointment would be an understatement,” Speaker of the Virginia House Eileen Filler-Corn said in a statement.
However, in the Senate, which Democrats also control, moderate Democrats had for weeks said they were not comfortable with passing legislation that would affect so many current gun owners.
Lawmakers on Monday noted that there was confusion over what types of guns would constitute an assault weapon.
“There are obviously a lot of questions about definitions in this bill. Definitions do matter,” said Democratic Sen. Creigh Deeds.
The state Senate voted to shelve the bill for the year and asked the state crime commission to study the issue.
The governor’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said Northam is disappointed with the result but determined to continue to press for the measure. “We will be back next year,” Yarmosky said.
The NRA called the state Senate’s move “a victory for honest, hard-working Virginians.”
“We thank the senators on the judiciary committee for listening to their constituents and delivering a bipartisan defeat of an egregious gun ban that would have criminalized law-abiding gun owners,” NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said in a statement.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have already advanced several other gun-control measures and should finalize passage in the coming days. Those bills include limiting handgun purchases to once a month; universal background checks on gun purchases; allowing localities to ban guns in public buildings, parks and other areas; and a red flag bill that would allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from anyone deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others.