Virginia’s Senate Judiciary Committee, which has already approved four gun control measures this legislative session, is set to hear several more on Wednesday, including a measure that would ban ranges within 500 yards of any area zoned for residential uses and a bill that would permanently ban firearms from Capitol Square, where Gov. Ralph Northam temporarily banned firearms earlier this week during Lobby Day.
One bill to keep an eye on is SB 18 by Sen. Dick Saslaw, a northern Virginia Democrat who was also the author of a bill that would have banned the continued possession of any gun deemed by the government to be an “assault firearm.” That bill was ultimately pulled by Saslaw after it helped instigate the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement.
SB 18 would raise the age to purchase a long gun in the state from 18 to 21, but would also require that every transfer of a firearm go through a background check to ensure compliance.
The state Senate has already passed a heavily modified “universal background check” bill that was amended to only apply to sales, not transfers. Saslaw’s bill, if passed, would moot the version that passed the Senate and has moved over to the House. Democrat Chap Petersen was the legislator who amended the background check bill when it came up in the Judiciary Committee, so we’ll see if he’ll demand any changes to Saslaw’s bill.
Another issue with Saslaw’s bill is that it makes it a crime for a parent to allow a child under the age of 18 to have unsupervised access to a firearm. While the bill may sound well-intended, it would have the effect of criminalizing parents who allow their 17-year old daughter to hunt on the family farm, or to make sure she has access to a firearm if need be while she’s home alone. Sen. Saslaw represents the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., so maybe he doesn’t care about what this would mean in most of the state, but I hope that this portion of the bill gets a lot of pushback from rural senators on the committee.
One more bill to pay attention to during today’s hearing is SB 64. When this bill was first introduced, there was a lot of confusion on the part of gun owners about what this bill would actually do. Some claimed it would ban self-defense classes or firearm instructions in the state, but that’s not the case. What it would do is change the law so that “that a person is guilty of unlawful paramilitary activity if such person assembles with another person with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons by drilling, parading, or marching with any firearm, any explosive or incendiary device, or any components or combination thereof.”
We’ve already seen Democrats and gun control supporters claim that the thousands of armed citizens lobbying lawmakers from the streets of Richmond on Monday was meant to “intimidate” lawmakers. If a prosecutor or police chief agreed, then under this proposal those armed citizens would be facing felony charges. I don’t happen to think that those citizens were armed to intimidate anyone. I think they were simply exercising their Second Amendment rights alongside their First Amendment rights, and Virginia Democrats have already shown us this law could be too easily abused to justify its passage.
If you’re a Virginia gun owner, make sure you’ve contacted your state senator by phone or email to urge them to oppose these unconstitutional gun control measures. We made our voices heard on Lobby Day, but we need to continue to stay engaged.