AP Photo/Steve Helber
The Virginia House of Delegates approved HB961 Tuesday afternoon, sending the gun, magazine, suppressor, and trigger activator ban to the state Senate on a narrow 51-48 vote. There was bipartisan opposition to the bill, with several Democrats voting against the proposal, but only Democrats supported the gun ban measure.
The bill was modified on the House floor in order to bring more Democrats on board. The original provision making it a felony to possess a magazine that can accept more than 12-rounds of ammunition was amended to make possession a misdemeanor offense. This doesn’t make sense if you truly believe that possessing this magazines is tantamount to possessing a weapon of war, but if you’re a Democrat who’s looking at this from a political angle, not public safety, it’s just another bargaining chip that can be used to deliver a few more votes.
In fact, I’m growing increasingly concerned that Virginia state senators will modify the bill even further, introducing a grandfather clause for owners of existing magazines but putting a ban in place on the future purchase or sale of magazines over 12-rounds. The language we’ve seen from Democrats like Sen. Lynwood Lewis is that they can’t support any bill that would take guns or magazines from Virginians. Would a grandfather clause give them the political cover to vote for the bill? I don’t know, but it worries me, and I hope every Virginia gun owner is contacting their state senator and telling them to oppose HB961 in any form.
Sen. Lewis did help to defeat one of Gov. Northam’s gun control proposals on Tuesday, when he joined fellow Democrat Chap Petersen and every Republican state senator in opposing SB 67, which would have fined gun owners who failed to report their lost or stolen firearms to police within 24 hours of their absence. If those two senators vote against HB961, it won’t get to Northam’s desk, and it’s a good sign to see them buck the governor’s wishes, though a similar measure passed the House and is currently in a Senate committee.
There’s no doubt that Northam wants to be able to say he got a gun ban into law in Virginia, and I suspect he’s willing to horsetrade a lot of the specifics in order to make it happen. Gun owners have to understand that any ban on the future sale of specific firearms, magazines, or suppressors also amounts to a future ban on the current possession of those items. We saw this with the original gun ban language supported by Northam, which contained no grandfather clauses whatsoever.
Northam and anti-gun activists started with what they wanted, and they’re whittling the bill down to what will pass. If they’re able to get HB961 to Northam’s desk this year, he’ll happily sign it, though it doesn’t go nearly as far as he wants. It’s much easier to add to a law than it is to take it away, and Democrats believe they can expand the legislation in 2021, even if they don’t get everything they want this year.
HB961 is not assured of passage in the state Senate, and every contact gun owners can make with their state senator will help the cause. Be polite, be civil, but be clear: there’s no way you can support them if they support HB961 in any form.