AP Photo/Steve Helber
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is hoping to take some of the wind out of the sails of the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement in the state by proclaiming that he backs a grandfather clause in a pending ban on so-called “assault weapons.”
More than fifty counties, towns, and cities have passed resolutions vowing not to enforce unconstitutional gun control laws that are assured of passage in the next legislative session, and Northam’s statement is the first response we’ve seen from the governor’s office in regards to the movement. From the Virginia Mercury:
“In this case, the governor’s assault weapons ban will include a grandfather clause for individuals who already own assault weapons, with the requirement they register their weapons before the end of a designated grace period,” Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky said in a statement Monday evening. “Additional details on this and all other bills will be announced prior to the start of the upcoming session.”
Though legislation for the 2020 General Assembly session is still being written, gun-rights supporters have directed a wave of outrage at an early draft of a bill filed by incoming Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax. Saslaw’s legislation would have made it a felony to possess a pistol, rifle or shotgun that falls under its “assault weapon” definition after the bill takes effect and didn’t appear to make any exceptions for gun owners who already have them.
In a brief phone interview Monday night, Saslaw said the bill he filed won’t be the main assault weapon proposal and will be amended at a later date. Asked about the governor’s support for grandfathering in existing weapons, Saslaw said “that would make sense.”
“I’m not going to lock up a large part of Virginia,” Saslaw said.
Color me unimpressed. If Saslaw wasn’t interested in locking up a large part of Virginia, then why did he introduce SB 16 without a grandfather clause?
This is just an attempt by anti-gun politicians to appear “reasonable” in the face of the wave of opposition to their gun control proposals, but I have bad news for Northam, Saslaw, and their allies in the legislature: it won’t work.
The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement isn’t a response to one particular piece of legislation, nor will gun owners be mollified by a law that “allows” them to maintain possession of their legally owned firearms as long as they register them with the state.
In an email to supporters Monday, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, the staunchly pro-gun group fueling the gun sanctuary movement in the state, said Saslaw’s bill was “a bridge too far” and was likely to be swapped out for something that included a grandfather clause. But the group made clear that it will continue to oppose any assault weapon ban and reject anything presented as a compromise.
“Who are WE to negotiate away the right of future generations to own AR-15s, or their equivalent, and magazines of whatever capacity they want?,” the VCDL email said. “Who are WE to give away the right of future generations to protect themselves from criminals or from a government that’s gone tyrannical, just so we can selfishly have our guns and magazines now?”
We also know that once gun control advocates put a gun ban on the books, they have a tendency to revisit the law in later legislative sessions to make it more and more restrictive. California, for instance, has revised their “assault weapons ban” multiple times since it was first put on the books in the late 1990’s, and every time the law has made it more difficult for residents to legally own the most commonly sold rifle in the country today.
Northam’s gun ban is just one of several proposals that gun owners are concerned about. Senator Saslaw’s SB 22 rations gun purchases to one-per-monht, while SB 18 would make it a crime for a parent to allow their 17-year old daughter to access a firearm in self-defense without direct adult supervision.
Then there’s the so-called “red flag” law that will be introduced in the next session of the legislature, requiring sheriffs to confiscate firearms from individuals deemed to be a danger to themselves or others by a judge, though the individual in question will not be allowed to present their side of the case before an order is issued. We haven’t seen specific “red flag” language introduced yet for the 2020 session, but the red flag legislation that was voted down earlier this year by the Republican-controlled legislature would have allowed for the seizure of firearms based on a low standard of “probable cause”, as well as seizing guns a full two weeks before an individual subject to an “Emergency Substantial Risk Order” gets their day in court.
Virginia’s governor and his anti-gun allies in the legislature are clearly concerned about the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement sweeping the state, but gun owners aren’t going to be satisfied with their rights being slightly less infringed than they expected. The only thing that’s changed as a result of Northam’s proclamation about a grandfather clause is his public stance, not the hearts and minds of Second Amendment supporters in the state.