AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
With little debate and public testimony, the Virginia legislature’s House Public Safety Committee approved nearly a dozen gun control bills targeting six specific areas of legal gun ownership on Friday, sending the bills to the floor of the full House for passage.
While HB 961, a sweeping gun, magazine, and suppressor ban wasn’t heard in the committee, Democrats did move forward with bills that would criminalize private transfers of firearms, punish gun owners who fail to report their firearms lost or stolen, gut the state’s firearms preemption law and more.
After the hearing, NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen said the committee “shamefully rubber-stamped the Bloomberg-Northam gun control scheme. By blocking legislator’s questions and preventing constituents from speaking, today’s hearing was a disgrace to the democratic process. Virginians deserve lawmakers who will hear testimony and conduct serious vetting of each bill — as the Senate Judiciary Committee did — before voting on measures that will strip away the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and leave them defenseless.”
Here’s a full list of the gun control bills approved by the committee on Friday.
House Bill 2 and House Bill 335 are both “universal background check” bills that criminalize private transfers of firearms, with only a few exceptions. Most common transfers between friends and neighbors are not exempted.
House Bill 9 is a “lost or stolen” bill that turns gun owners into criminals if they don’t report a lost or stolen firearm within 24 hours of discovering them missing by fining them. Supposedly this is supposed to cut down on “straw purchases,” but lawmakers who support the measure haven’t been able to explain how, exactly, the bill would work in practice.
House Bill 421 allows local governments to enact their own gun control ordinances, which would likely result in restrictive and unconstitutional policies being adopted in northern Virginia and other Democrat strongholds of the state.
House Bill 72, House Bill 463, and House Bill 1083, according to NRA, “severely restrict parental decisions about firearms in the home while attaching excessive penalties for violations.” Under these bills, it would be a crime for a parent to allow their 16-year old to hunt on the family’s property without direct adult supervision, or for parents to allow their 17-year old daughter access to a firearm for self-defense while she was home along, no matter how much training the teens might have.
House Bill 674 is “red flag” legislation allowing the seizure of an individual’s firearms based on a low standard of review and without any opportunity for the subject of the Extreme Risk Protection Order to be present at the hearing or to offer their own side of the story before the temporary order is issued.
Unlike the state Senate, which has modified many of the gun bills to make them slightly less awful, the House Public Safety Committee offered up no changes to the bills it approved on Friday.
It’s clear that the House is more interested in ramming through these bills without changes and very little discussion while the Senate is more interested in hearing from opponents and is willing to make some changes.
— Virginia Shooting Sports Association (@VSSA) January 24, 2020
Meanwhile, Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety, Brian Moran, says there’s still plenty of time for lawmakers to approve HB 961, though clearly the bill is in some trouble in its current form. It’s also clear, however, that Virginia Democrats want to send some form of an “assault weapons ban” to Governor Ralph Northam, so expect to see a re-worked or modified version of the bill brought up in committee in the next couple of weeks.