Virginia’s 2020 legislative session kicks off this week, with gun control expected to be one of the top priorities for Governor Ralph Northam. While tens of thousands of Virginians have turned out for their local county supervisors and city council meetings to urge local lawmakers to stand in support of the Second Amendment, Republican state senator Tommy Norment says he expects that several of the anti-gun bills pushed by Democrats will draw at least some report from his fellow Republicans.
He made the statement at the annual Kaufman & Canoles Business Leaders Forum at the Princess Anne Country Club in Virginia Beach. During the luncheon, Norment and Virginia Beach Del. Barry Knight (R-81st District) talked about some legislation Virginia can expect to see.
Norment’s official position as co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee makes him the man at the tip of the spear for all things budget-related. His position as Senate majority leader has changed as Democrats take control of the Senate.
Norment said it’s clear recent gatherings at local government meetings supporting gun rights are making a statement. There’s no legal impact, but the protests are expressions of pro-gun values.
“Universal background checks, I predict, is coming out no matter what the governor has said. It is going to happen because there is majority of Republicans and Democrats who will pass it,” he said.
A reminder; Democrats now control both chambers of the legislature, so they can pass what they want even if every Republican votes “no,” but Norment says both background checks and a “red flag” law could draw support from some members of the GOP.
“But let me be clear about that,” he told the gathering of about 100 people. “If there is an appropriately, narrowly-drawn red flag law it will pass, but it must be drawn so tightly that due process is preserved.”
At the so-called “Sanctuary City” gatherings all across Hampton Roads, many people have voiced concerns that guns will be confiscated.
Norment said there was “no way” that would happen.
“There ain’t no way in hell that any legislation will pass confiscating guns and locking people up under the pretext of amending the federal Constitution of the Second Amendment,” he said, garnering some applause.
From what I’ve been hearing, there are some GOP lawmakers (particularly in several suburban districtse) who believe the popularity of “universal background checks” in polls in Virginia makes this an issue they feel like they have to support. A few folks I’ve talked to indicate that they believe the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement revolves around opposition to SB16, the so-called “assault weapons ban” introduced by Sen. Dick Saslaw from northern Virginia.
I would strongly encourage them to reconsider their position, because I can assure these senators that every one of Ralph Northam’s gun control proposals is going to be met with resistance in most of the Second Amendment Sanctuaries, including background checks on all private transfers.
Besides the concerns about establishing a back-door gun registry, gun owners and Second Amendment supporters know that these universal background check laws don’t actually lead to more background checks or reduced crime rates. From Denver, Colorado to Baltimore, Maryland, crime rates have actually increased after background check laws were put in place. If the supposed popularity of a bad bill is enough for some lawmakers to vote for it, Virginia gun owners are going to be in for a rough few months.
Every gun owner in the state concerned about the erosion and the infringement on their right to keep and bear arms needs to be in contact with their delegate and state senator right now, urging them to stand strong in defense of the Second Amendment.
If Republicans in Virginia really want to do something with background checks, they’d be much better off pushing something that actually works while addressing the valid concerns of gun owners in the state. Kareem Shaya with Open Source Defense, for example, wrote a piece back in August that offered a new way to conduct background checks that alleviates the concern over a registry.
- Any gun buyer can log into the NICS background check system and enter their personal information. The system gives them a check number that expires in 1 week. (For reference here is ATF Form 4473, the background check form.)
- The buyer can then buy firearms from any legal seller. They have to meet face-to-face (or ship the gun to a licensed dealer for the buyer to do the check with), and the buyer shows the check number. The seller verifies the buyer’s ID, enters the check number into the NICS system, and the system returns just one word: “approved” or “denied”. If the check is approved, they can proceed with the sale.
- The system doesn’t collect any information at all on the item(s) being sold/transferred (type, make, model, quantity, etc.) — its only job is to check on whether the buyer is legally allowed to purchase firearms. After one week, when the check number expires, the system doesn’t retain any records. (That information is already archived for 20 years on the Form 4473 for all gun shop sales.) The system collects no information about the seller, as it’s designed to work without even knowing the seller’s identity.
- Transfers between family members are exempt. Firearm loans of up to 14 days are also exempt — this is to accommodate a situation where, say, two people are on a backcountry hunting trip and one needs to lend the other a gun during the trip. They need some way to do that without committing a felony.
Now, the system that Shaya lays out is designed to work at the federal level, but this could be tweaked to allow the Virginia State Police to serve as agency that would give purchasers the check number that expires. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s much better than what Virginia Democrats are proposing.
If Republicans in the state legislature roll over on any of the Northam’s gun control proposals, they will face a backlash. They could also drive down the voter enthusiasm on the right during a critically important 2020 election year. It’s critically important that we as gun owners engage with our lawmakers right now to let them know where we stand. Be polite, be civil, but be heard.