AP Photo/Vicki Cronis-Nohe
Virginia Democrats are speaking out after the Senate Judiciary Committee scuttled Gov. Ralph Northam’s gun, magazine, and suppressor ban for the session by sending the bill off to be studied by the Virginia Crime Commission. Northam’s office released a statement a few hours after the vote that tried to put a positive spin on the vote.
“Despite today’s vote, the Governor is proud of the several commonsense gun safety measures that continue to advance. These bills represent historic steps forward in keeping Virginians safe from gun violence. Make no mistake—they will save lives.” (2/2) pic.twitter.com/k18WTLizXN
— Tim Barber (@ABC7TimBarber) February 17, 2020
The thing is, this isn’t the first gun control bill supported by Ralph Northam to be killed in the state Senate. SB 67 a “lost or stolen” measure, was defeated on the Senate floor, and the Senate Judiciary Committee defeated another measure on February 3rd.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted against a bill that would make it a felony to “recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm” in a way that endangers a minor.
It’s one of eight gun-related proposals that Northam has urged lawmakers to adopt. Virginia has become ground zero in the nation’s raging debate over gun control and mass shootings as a new Democratic majority seeks to enact strict new limits. Last month, tens of thousands of guns-rights activists from around the country flooded the Capitol and surrounding area in protest, some donning tactical gear and carrying military rifles.
Two moderate Democrats — Sens. Creigh Deeds and Chap Petersen — joined with Republicans to defeat the bill Monday over concerns that law-abiding gun owners could be unfairly punished.
The House did pass its version of that same legislation, but it has yet to come up in the Senate Judiciary Committee for a vote. Given that the House version is even worse than the language killed by the Senate, I’d say at the moment the prospects for that bill don’t look great.
Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn also tried her best to take a victory lap in the face of HB961’s defeat.
The Democratic platform last fall was very clear. Limiting access to weapons of war used in mass murder was a key part of that platform. The House of Delegates delivered on our promise to take action to keep those weapons off our streets. https://t.co/UQJPDt6jfv
— Eileen Filler-Corn (@EFillerCorn) February 17, 2020
Filler-Corn claims that HB961 would have “taken weapons of war off the streets,” but in truth, it would have grandfathered in every existing AR-15 currently owned in Virginia. If Democrats like Filler-Corn truly believe that no one should own these firearms, then why did they offer up a bill that allowed Virginia gun owners to keep their guns? Why not back SB16, Governor Northam’s original gun ban proposal, which contained no grandfather clauses for guns, magazines, or suppressors? It was political expedience, plain and simple. They tried for as much of what they could get as they thought possible. They just guessed wrong.
We know what they really want, however, and there’s no reason for Virginians believe Filler-Corn and other anti-gun lawmakers in the future when they say “you can keep yours” when we already know that their intent is to ban the guns, magazines, and suppressors we currently own, as well as deny future gun owners the ability to own some of the most common arms in the country today.
The bill’s sponsor, Mark Levine, was trying to make the same argument as Filler-Corn on Twitter, which makes even less sense. He’s the author of the bill, for crying out loud. If he truly thinks AR-15’s shouldn’t be possessed by anyone other than the military or police, why didn’t his bill say that?
Senate Committee voted to study assault weapons bill for another year. We already know weapons of war don’t belong on our streets. I fear mass murder with these weapons between now and then, but I am proud of House of Delegates for doing what we could. We will be back.
— Mark Levine (@DelegateMark) February 17, 2020
Of course, this is the same guy who claimed his gun ban bill wasn’t a gun ban at all, so honesty may be too much to ask. Still, what did the House of Delegates managed to do with HB961? Well, they woke up a lot of rural voters in Virginia to the dangers of voting for anti-gun Democrats. They also helped sell a lot of the guns, magazines, and suppressors that they were trying to ban, ironically enough.
What they didn’t do is turn the bill into a law, though Northam still has an option available to him to amend his gun ban language to an existing gun control bill, and there are still several other House-approved gun control bills still alive this session. Virginia gun owners still have plenty of reasons to remain involved and engaged, and not just because lawmakers will be back next year. There’s still plenty of damage they can do to our Second Amendment rights this session as well.