A Virginia House committee is set to hear a number of gun bills on Friday, and the worst appears to be HB 421, which would absolutely gut the state’s firearms preemption laws and allow localities to set their own laws regarding the possession, carrying, storing, and transportation of firearms and ammunition.
Right now, the state legislature sets a uniform law across the commonwealth, but if HB 421 becomes law, we would immediately see D.C. suburbs like Alexandria and Arlington adopt restrictive local policies aimed squarely at legal gun owners.
Of course this only works in one direction. If a city wants to pass more restrictive local gun laws, that would be allowed under HB 421. If, on the other hand, a county decided to become a permitless carry county, you know darn well that the state would try to step in and quash the move.
This attack on firearms preemption laws is nothing new, nor is it limited to Virginia. Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety has been involved in multiple attempts to undo firearms preemption laws by defending cities that have passed their own local gun control ordinances in violation of state law, including in Pittsburgh, where a judge tossed three local laws approved by Mayor Bill Peduto (the case is now on appeal).
The idea here is twofold: first, by removing firearms preemption laws, gun control advocates can work in deep blue cities to pass the most restrictive laws possible (think New York City-style gun laws). Secondly, the proliferation of gun control laws at the local level becomes very expensive to fight in court. The gun control movement may be largely backed by billionaires, but the Second Amendment movement doesn’t have a Michael Bloomberg to fund endless litigation from his vast fortune.
The Virginia State Senate has already passed its own measure that would gut the state’s firearms preemption law, but the House version is even worse. SB 35 would allow localities to ban firearms at permitted events, as well as on government-owned property, in addition to allowing localities to sue firearms manufacturers. HB 421 does all that and more, and it’ll be interesting to see if the House bill emerges from committee without changes to bring it more in line the Senate bill.
One notable bill is not on the agenda for Friday’s House Public Safety Committee meeting; HB 961, which bans so-called “assault firearms,” magazines that can accept more than 10-rounds, and all legally owned suppressors. The bill has the backing of Governor Ralph Northam, but several Democrat state senators have said that while they support a so-called “assault weapons ban” in theory, they don’t approve of the current language.
The fact that the bill is being held back in committee may be a sign that the legislation is in some trouble in the House as well, at least in its current form. I suspect we’ll soon see a re-worded and re-worked bill emerge from the committee in the not-too-distant future, but it won’t be on Friday.
I’m heading back from SHOT Show today so my posting here on Bearing Arms will likely be fairly light (unless I luck out and get a plane that offers in-flight WiFi), but I’ll have more from SHOT over the weekend once I get home. In the meantime, before I board my flight I’m sending an email to my House delegate, urging him to oppose HB 421 and all other bills that infringe on our right to keep and bear arms, and I encourage every Virginia gun owner to do the same. Even if you think the outcome is already pre-determined, let them know that you’re paying attention to how they’re voting and you’ll remember come 2021.