Universal Background Check, Other Gun Bills Pass VA Senate

The Virginia Senate approved several gun control bills, including universal background checks and measures weakening the state’s firearm preemption laws Wednesday afternoon, bringing the bills one step closer to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for his expected signature.

Here’s a rundown of what passed, and where we stand.

HB2, a universal background check bill, passed 23-17 with two Republicans joining every Democrat in support of the bill. The legislation was amended in a Senate committee to apply only to sales of firearms instead of sales and transfers, and violators would face a 1st degree misdemeanor charge.

HB9, a lost and stolen firearms bill, was amended to extend the time gun owners have to report lost or stolen firearms to police from 24 to 48 hours. The bill actually tied 20-20, but Lt. Gov Justin Fairfax cast a tie breaking vote and it passed 21-20.

HB264, which removes the ability for online training for Virginia concealed carry licenses, passed 21-19. The bill was amended in the state Senate Judiciary Committee to re-insert language about NRA-approved training courses that had been stripped by the House of Delegates.

HB421, which would allow local governments to ban lawfully carried firearms in government owned buildings, parks, and several other areas, passed the state Senate by a 22-18 margin, with Republican Senator Tommy Norment voting for the measure.

HB1083 passed the Senate with a Republican crossover as well. This bill would make it a class 1 misdemeanor to “recklessly” allow a minor 14-years or younger access to a firearm. The Senate version of this bill actually died on the floor of the Senate when two Democrats voted against the measure, but the House version was amended to lower the age from 18 to 14, and to lower the penalty as well, which was enough to bring Democrats like Chap Petersen and Lynwood Lewis on board, as well as Republican Siobhan Dunnavant.

The Senate also agreed to go to a conference committee with the House on two other bills; SB263 and SB593. The first bill is the Senate version of HB264, mentioned above, and the House and Senate members are ultimately going to have to come to some sort of deal regarding the language mentioning NRA-approved training courses as evidence of competency for a concealed handgun license. Del. Dan Helmer, who also introduced a bill that would have shut down the NRA’s range, is insisting that NRA-approved courses not be allowed, but so far the state Senate hasn’t budged on the issue. If the language is removed, it’s going to become a lot harder to find instructors who can conduct the necessary training, and that in turn will have a huge impact on the right to carry in the state.

SB593 is a bill dealing storage of firearms in daycares. The House version incorporated unlicensed daycares in its legislation, while the Senate version only deals with licensed daycares. The two sides will try to hammer out an agreement behind closed doors before bringing the bills out for votes on the House and Senate floors.

The Senate also set aside two bills for the day; HB812, which imposes a one-gun-a-month ration on handgun purchases and HB674, a “red flag” firearms seizure bill. There’s still disagreement between the House and Senate over whether or not concealed carry holders should be exempt from the one-gun-a-month law (Senate says yes, the House says no), so I’m not particularly surprised to see that bill carried over for the day while negotiations continue.

It is, however, surprising to see that the red flag bill wasn’t voted on, given that Democrats said they had reached a deal a couple of days ago. I’m not sure why the bill didn’t come up for a vote today, but I expect it will ultimately pass out of the Senate on Thursday or Friday.

None of these measures are going to do anything to actually improve public safety, prevent violent crimes, address our mental health crisis, or protect children. What they’ll do is restrict and infringe on the constitutional rights of Virginians. They’ll also allow anti-gun politicians to claim they did “something” about gun violence. Oh, and Bloomberg can brag about buying another legislative body to get his way.

It looks like Ralph Northam, meanwhile, is going to get to sign almost every piece of his gun control agenda, minus his gun, magazine, and suppressor ban. The legislative fight over Virginia’s gun control laws is almost over for this session, but the legal fight is just beginning. Expect the battle to turn to the courts before the ink is even dry on Northam’s signatures on these bills.