Virginia Senate Moves Forward On Red Flag Law

A day after tens of thousands of Virginia gun owners and Second Amendment supporters thronged the state capitol in Richmond to oppose Gov. Ralph Northam’s anti-gun agenda, the state Senate moved a “red flag” proposal on to third reading, but not before the bill was once again amended substantially.

SB 240 was already gutted and replaced with new language in the Senate Public Safety committee, but once it got to the floor of the state Senate it was passed by for a vote on multiple days last week. State Senator Joe Morrissey, a Democrat, was opposed to the lack of due process protections within the bill, but during today’s session, he  pronounced himself satisfied with the changes that were offered. While the bill was made better, it still lacks fundamental due process protections by allowing ex parte hearings where the subject of an Extreme Risk Protection Order isn’t present, or indeed aware of the hearing to determine whether they will temporarily lose their Second Amendment rights.

Morrissey says that temporary detention orders in Virginia already allow for ex parte hearings, so the bill doesn’t tread any new ground. Not so, says Dennis Petrocelli, a clinical and forensic psychiatrist and Second Amendment advocate in Virginia.

The bill was also amended to require two law enforcement agents to request an ERPO, as well as sign off by the local commonwealth’s attorney. Frankly, this almost guarantees that any red flag law signed by Governor Ralph Northam will be ignored and unused in the vast majority of Second Amendment Sanctuary counties across the state, since it will be up to local law enforcement to actually petition for an order to be issued.

Beyond the due process problems, the bill still has no mental health component attached, which means individuals who are determined to be a danger to themselves or others will remain without any mental health evaluation or treatment. They just can’t own a gun. Matches, knives, car keys, and gasoline are all okay though. This bill makes absolutely no sense, and it won’t accomplish anything other than to erode the right of the people to keep and bear arms, but it looks likely to pass at this point, though not perhaps without the House making even more changes.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee meets again on Wednesday, and there are a number of bad bills that will be up for a vote. Every Virginian who attended Lobby Day on Monday needs to call or email their lawmakers and lobby them once more to reject the gun control bills that will be taken up by committee members.