On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, I talk with Second Amendment advocate, consultant, and podcaster Gabriella Hoffman about her experience at Lobby Day in Richmond last week, as well as the curious lack of movement with Gov. Ralph Northam’s biggest gun control bill; HB 961, a sweeping gun, magazine, suppressor, and trigger activator ban that was introduced back on January 7th but hasn’t even had a committee vote in the weeks since.
Other bills have already crossed over from state Senate into the House, while several bills originating on the House side have cleared committee and also await floor votes. Not HB 961, though. So what gives?
My sources in the capitol say that, given the opposition to the bill in its current form by four Democrats in the state Senate, there’s an effort underway to “fix” the bill and bring them on board. Note that none of these Democrats say they’re opposed to the idea of a gun ban in general. It’s the specific language they have issues with.
“A lot of people don’t really understand assault weapons and how complicated the issue really is,” said Democratic Sen. John Edwards. “It’s going to be very difficult to figure out a way to do it. But we’re studying it, that’s all I can say.”
He’s one of at least four moderate senators – the others are Sens. Chap Petersen, Creigh Deeds and Lynwood Lewis – who are skeptical of plans to ban assault weapons. None of them has ruled out voting for an assault weapon ban, but all have said they aren’t impressed with any of the drafts of proposed bans they’ve seen.
“I’ve not seen an enforceable bill that makes sense yet,” Deeds said.
It’s also worth noting that none of them have actually proposed any “fixes” yet either, at least not publicly.
The easiest proposal to moderate HB 961 would be to grandfather in all existing magazines, suppressors, and trigger activators (the current language allows for so-called “assault weapons” to be grandfathered in, but only after the owner and the firearm are both registered with the state police). As Hoffman pointed out to me during today’s show, however, that still infringes on the rights of Virginians, because new gun owners and those moving into the state would still be prohibited from possessing some of the most commonly held arms in the country today.
Personally, I think the only way you can “fix” a bill as fundamentally flawed as HB 961 is to simply throw it away, or maybe set it on fire first and sweep up the ashes. I also suspect, however, that Democrats are going to do whatever they have to do to get some form of a gun ban bill to Gov. Northam’s desk, even if that means watering the bill down to near meaninglessness. The best chance of blocking the bill at this point looks to be with the four Democrat state senators mentioned above, and continued positive pressure and constituent engagement from gun owners in their districts.
Anti-gun lawmakers have a deadline of February 11th to pass HB 961 out of the House of Delegates in whatever form it eventually takes. The bill could also be amended once it gets to the state Senate, so Democrats have plenty of opportunities to modify the bill in an attempt to secure the votes of the Democrat holdouts in the Senate, and gun owners still have plenty of chances to make their objections known to their representatives in both chambers.
Also on today’s program we have an armed citizen story out of Brown County, Texas involving a 13-year old who had to use a gun to protect his grandmother, who was being beaten. There are a couple of bills in Virginia that, if enacted, would mean that if a situation like this happened in Farmville or Culpeper, the 13-year old’s grandmother or mom would likely be facing charges for allowing the teenager access to a firearm. In fact, under those bills any parent who allows a child under the age of 18 to have unsupervised access to a firearm (including for hunting or home defense) would be committing a crime. It’s just another part of Northam’s anti-gun agenda that will have some terrible unintended consequences.
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