VA Dems Introduce New Gun And Ammo Bans As Session Begins
AP Photo/Vicki Cronis-Nohe

Virginia Democrats have introduced a revised ban on so-called “assault weapons” that requires existing gun owners to register their firearms with the state, and also bans outright the possession of magazines that can hold more than ten rounds as well as a ban on suppressors and “trigger activators”.

According to the legislative summary by Delegate Mark Levine, HB 961:

The bill makes it a Class 6 felony to import, sell, transfer, manufacture, purchase, possess, or transport large-capacity firearm magazines, silencers, and trigger activators, all defined in the bill. Any person who legally owns an assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator on July 1, 2020, may retain possession until January 1, 2021. During that time, such person shall (i) render the assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator inoperable; (ii) remove the assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator from the Commonwealth; (iii) transfer the assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator to a person outside the Commonwealth who is not prohibited from possessing it; or (iv) surrender the assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator to a state or local law-enforcement agency.

Under the terms of this bill, every ammunition magazine in the state of Virginia that can accept more than ten rounds would have to be permanently modified to only hold ten rounds, destroyed, turned over, or removed from the state. This language is very similar to the language of New Jersey’s magazine ban, which is currently being challenged by residents in court.

Suppressors would have to be turned in, destroyed, or removed from the state of Virginia as well. No compensated confiscation here, just “Mr.-and-Mrs.-Virginia turn them all in.”

Now let’s take a look at the “revised” ban on so-called assault weapons.

First, here’s how HB 961 defines “assault weapon”:

1. A semi-automatic center-fire rifle that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material with a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 10 rounds;

2. A semi-automatic center-fire rifle that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has one of the following characteristics: (i) a folding or telescoping stock; (ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the rifle; (iii) a thumbhole stock; (iv) a second handgrip or a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand; (v) a bayonet mount; (vi) a grenade launcher; (vii) a flare launcher; (viii) a silencer; (ix) a flash suppressor; (x) a muzzle brake; (xi) a muzzle compensator; (xii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting (a) a silencer, (b) a flash suppressor, (c) a muzzle brake, or (d) a muzzle compensator; or (xiii) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (xii);

3. A semi-automatic center-fire pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material with a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 10 rounds;

4. A semi-automatic center-fire pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has one of the following characteristics: (i) a folding or telescoping stock; (ii) a thumbhole stock; (iii) a second handgrip or a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand; (iv) the capacity to accept a magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip; (v) a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the pistol with the non-trigger hand without being burned; (vi) a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded; (vii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting (a) a silencer, (b) a flash suppressor, (c) a barrel extender, or (d) a forward handgrip; or (viii) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (vii);

5. A shotgun with a revolving cylinder that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material; or

6. A semi-automatic shotgun that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material that has one of the following characteristics: (i) a folding or telescoping stock, (ii) a thumbhole stock, (iii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the shotgun, (iv) the ability to accept a detachable magazine, (v) a fixed magazine capacity in excess of seven rounds, or (vi) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (v).

“Assault firearm” includes any part or combination of parts designed or intended to convert, modify, or otherwise alter a firearm into an assault firearm, or any combination of parts that may be readily assembled into an assault firearm. “Assault firearm” does not include (i) a firearm that has been rendered permanently inoperable, (ii) an antique firearm as defined in § 18.2-308.2:2, or (iii) a curio or relic as defined in § 18.2-308.2:2.

As you can see, not only does the bill broadly define an “assault weapon,” it also is apparently designed to encompass 80% lowers and other gun parts, meaning even if you register your firearm (more on that in a moment) you may not be able to repair it if need be.

As Governor Ralph Northam promised, the revised gun ban contains a grandfather clause that “allows” Virginians to maintain possession of the firearms they legally own, but at a cost.

A. Any person who legally owns an assault firearm on July 1, 2020, may apply for a permit to possess such assault firearm. The application shall be on a form prescribed by the Department of State Police and shall include a certification statement to be signed by the applicant under penalty of perjury certifying that the applicant is the lawful owner of the assault firearm and that the information presented on the application is true and correct. Upon receipt of a complete application for a permit, the Superintendent of State Police or his designee shall issue a permit to the applicant. The Department of State Police may charge a fee not to exceed $50 to cover the cost of the issuance of the permit.

B. The permit shall contain the name, address, date of birth, gender, height, weight, and color of hair of the applicant and a description of the assault firearm, including the make, model, caliber, and serial number of the assault firearm and any other information as required by the Department of State Police. Except as provided in subsection E, the permit shall not be transferable to another person. The permit shall remain valid as long as the applicant issued the permit remains the owner of the assault firearm unless during the time of ownership the applicant is found not to be in compliance with the conditions set forth in subsection D or the applicant no longer satisfies the requirements for the issuance of a permit. A person issued a permit shall notify the Department of State Police of any change in the person’s address on a form provided by the Department of State Police within 30 days from the date of the change in address. Upon receipt of such notification, the Department of State Police shall issue a replacement permit to the person.

This language looks to be borrowed from New York’s SAFE Act. You know, the one that required New York gun owners to register their so-called “assault weapons” with the state, but almost no one complied? Yeah, that one.

Remember, the original “assault weapons” ban introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw banned the possession of these firearms. That’s what Democrats want. Now they’re promising gun owners they can keep their rifles, as long as they provide the State with a list of everyone who owns one. This is not a serious attempt at “moderation” by the governor and his legislative allies. This is simply criminalizing possession of the most commonly produced rifle in the United States, and in flies in the face of the constitutional rights of Virginians.

Delegate Levine has also introduced HB 899, which would ban the possession and use of “restricted firearm ammunition” in the state, and makes it a felony to own any ammunition that meets the following criteria:

(i) Teflon coated or coated with a similar product;

(ii) commonly known as “KTW” bullets or “French Arcanes”; or

(iii) cartridges containing bullets coated with a plastic substance with other than lead or lead alloy cores, jacketed bullets with other than lead or lead alloy cores, or cartridges of which the bullet itself is wholly composed of a metal or metal alloy other than lead, but the definition does not include shotgun shells or solid plastic bullets.

In other words, any non-lead ammunition would be banned in the state, and you’d be a felon for possessing a single round of lead-free ammo. That is not only going to ban some of the most common ammunition, but it’s even ridiculous from a gun control perspective, given the push in places like California to ban lead ammunition for hunting.

Both of these bills violate the Constitutional rights of Virginia residents, and if they become law they most certainly will be challenged in court. Unfortunately, with bills like this Democrats are making it clear that their goal is to try to ban their way to safety, and they’re prepared to turn a lot of Virginians into felons overnight in order to get their way.

Now that the session is underway, I’ll be doing my best to keep track of bills like these, but if you’re a Virginia gun owner make sure you’re checking in regularly with NRA-ILA, the Virginia Shooting Sports Association, and the Virginia Citizens Defense League as well.