Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam checked off another item on his gun control to-do list this week with his announcement that longtime gun control activist Lori Haas will now sit on the state’s Crime Commission. The 13-person commission is a designated “criminal justice agency” established by the state legislature to “study, report, and make recommendations on all areas of public safety and protection,” and Northam’s pick is a clear indication that he wants to use the body to help advance his anti-gun legislative agenda.
Despite the fact that Northam was able to sign more than a half-dozen gun control bills into law this year, the centerpiece of his anti-2A legislative package went down to defeat thanks to several Democrats in the state Senate who broke with party leadership and rejected a bill that would have banned commonly owned semi-automatic long guns, ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 12-rounds, and suppressors as well. Northam has vowed to bring his gun ban back in the next legislative session, and he’ll likely try to use the Crime Commission to push lawmakers to approve the legislation over the next several months.
Haas is the Virginia State Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and has been a voice for restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms since her daughter was injured in the Virginia Tech shooting back in 2007. Last year, Haas called the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement that swept across the state a “fairy tale”, and portrayed the widespread resistance to Northam’s gun control agenda as just the rantings of a few “AR-15 toting white men.”
The handful of counties in Virginia that have passed these symbolic gestures are mostly rural, conservative areas. They have been bombarded with Van Cleave and his followers, armed to the teeth demanding sanctuary from policies that are supported by 90% of Virginia citizens. Requiring universal background checks or establishing an Extreme Risk Protection Order in Virginia will do nothing to infringe on the rights of law-abiding, responsible gun owners in the Commonwealth. All of the bills in the governor’s package presented this past summer have been upheld by courts across the country.
The “handful of counties” that Haas mentioned last November grew in a matter of weeks to at least 90 of the state’s 95 counties, as well as dozens of towns and cities throughout Virginia. In January of this year, more than 20,000 gun owners from across the state descended on the state capitol in Richmond to peacefully and forcefully lobby against Northam and Haas’ gun control legislation, and while most of the bills eventually passed, many of them were watered-down in the process.
As for the court challenges to things like “universal background checks” and red-flag laws, we’ll see soon enough what the courts in Virginia have to say. Already a judge in Lynchburg has declared that Gov. Northam overstepped his constitutional bounds when he used an executive order to shut down indoor ranges in the state as part of his plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In that case, the judge not only relied on the state’s emergency powers statute, but also referenced Virginia’s state constitution, which states in Article 1, Section 13:
That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
It’s likely that several of Northam’s new gun laws will face a legal challenge when they take effect on July 1st, but with his moves to turn the state’s Crime Commission into a gun control group, the governor’s clearly signaling that he’s not finished with Virginia gun owners and their right to keep and bear arms. I suspect before the next legislative session begins, the Crime Commission will issue a recommendation to lawmakers to approve a ban on commonly owned firearms and magazines, even while many Democrat lawmakers themselves will be pushing to defund law enforcement agencies across the state.