With limited debate, the Virginia House Public Safety Committee Friday morning passed an amended version of HB961 that would ban future sales of the most commonly sold rifles, magazines, and all suppressors in the state of Virginia.
The 12-9 vote comes as House Democrats were forced to overhaul the bill in order to gain support from reluctant Democrat legislators. Gone, for now anyway, are requirements that gun owners register their so-called “assault weapons” with the state police, as well as turn in or destroy any lawfully possessed suppressors or “trigger activators.”
However, the bill still contains language that would require Virginians to either turn over or destroy ammunition magazines deemed to be “high capacity.” According to the current language of HB961, that means any Virginian possessing an ammunition magazine that can accept more than 12-rounds on January 1st, 2021 would be a felon. As House Republicans noted shortly after the bill passed out of committee “amounts to confiscation.”
“House Democrats seem to have learned nothing from the public outcry caused by their proposals. A similar Senate version of House Bill 961 is exactly what prompted the ‘Second Amendment sanctuary cities’ movement across Virginia.” – @cToddGilbert pic.twitter.com/eDmTdhwGY1
— VA House GOP (@vahousegop) February 7, 2020
Phil Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League isn’t impressed with the modifications to HB961 either.
Unfortunately after a long debate and a change to the bill that really didn’t help, HB 961 passed out of committee and will head to the floor of the house. If it passes there then I will head to the Senate. Battle far from over. I’m going to do a video to explain all this today.
— Phil Van Cleave VCDL (@VCDL_ORG) February 7, 2020
Van Cleave is right that the battle is far from over, though gun control activists are celebrating the committee’s passage of HB961.
— Brady (@bradybuzz) February 7, 2020
It’s clear that the strategy of Democrat leadership in the House is to water down the legislation enough to allow lawmakers to say they’re not “taking anyone’s guns,” though the bill would still turn the vast majority of the state’s gun owners into felons simply for maintaining possession of the magazines that they possess.
What’s more, the bill still turns the ownership of some of the most common firearms, magazines, and suppressors into a privilege. Existing owners of these items would be “allowed” to continue to possess their guns and suppressors, but no future sales would be permitted. The bill also prohibits the manufacturing of so-called “assault weapons,” which would mean that Virginia-based gun companies like Zenith Firearms would be forced to relocate outside of the state in order to continue doing business.
HB961 must pass out of the House of Delegates by the end of Tuesday, February 11th in order to remain viable this session, and it’s clear that there is still reluctance on the part of some House Democrats to embrace the extreme measure. Over on the state Senate side, passage isn’t assured either. At least four Democrat state senators said they couldn’t vote for the original language of HB961, and it’s unclear whether the substitute language will be enough to garner their support. At least one Democrat state senator, Lynwood Lewis, has said he won’t vote for any bill that would force Virginians to get rid of legally owned firearms or magazines.
In other words, while gun control advocates are clearly trying to portray the passage of HB961 as inevitable, it’s not a done deal. Virginia gun owners need to contact their delegates today and over the weekend before next week’s House vote on the measure, and be prepared to do the same if the bill crosses over to the state Senate.