Typically, August is a pretty slow month for state legislatures, but that’s not going to be the case in Virginia this year. Technically, the state’s legislative session ended back in February, but Gov. Ralph Northam’s said that he’ll be calling lawmakers back for a special session sometime this summer, and it’s looking like late August is the most likely choice for that session to kick off.
On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, I’m joined by Virginia delegate and House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), who tells me that even though Northam’s call for a special session was originally meant to tackle budget shortfalls caused by the coronavirus shutdowns, Democrats are viewing the session as an opportunity to push for sweeping policy changes to policing and the state’s gun laws.
Already this year Democrats approved a half-dozen measures that took effect on July 1st, but a ban on so-called assault weapons, large capacity magazines, and suppressors that was the centerpiece of Northam’s anti-gun agenda failed to get out of the state Senate. While nothing’s been announced officially, Del. Gilbert says he expects that HB961 could be brought up in just a few weeks once lawmakers return to Richmond.
In February, four Democrat state senators voted against the bill, saying they had concerns with some of the specific language, but none of them declared that they were opposed in principal to a ban on some of the most commonly owned firearms, magazines, and accessories in the state. Northam tried watering down the bill to include a grandfather clause for firearms already in the hands of tens of thousands of Virginia gun owners, but even that wasn’t enough to get the four Democrats, most of whom represent rural parts of the state, on board in support of the measure.
On the one hand, I think it would be a huge tactical error for Democrats to make another attempt at passing a gun ban just months before the 2020 elections, even if they won’t be on the ballot in November (the state’s next legislative elections won’t be held until 2021). On the other hand, Democrats do believe this is a winning issue for them, believe it or not, and if they succeed in approving a ban, they would undoubtably view it as a legislative victory that will translate into increased voter enthusiasm for Democrats like Joe Biden when Election Day rolls around.
So, even though I think it would be a mistake, I fully expect that Democrats won’t be able to resist the pull to pass a gun ban in this August. Virginia gun owners were able to rally opposition to the bill this past winter, but we’re likely going to have to do it again late this summer and maybe into early fall. Gilbert says Second Amendment supporters need to be contacting their legislators now to demand that they reject any gun control proposals that might be introduced in the special session, and the Virginia Citizens Defense League has actually set up a widget that allows folks to contact their legislators with just a few easy steps. So far, more than 12,000 people have done so, and that’s before the special session has even been officially announced.
Be sure to check out the entire interview with Del. Todd Gilbert above, and stick around afterwards for more news, including an Illinois man facing murder charges who received probation for an aggravated robbery just a few months ago, a Cleveland man forced to defend his pregnant girlfriend from an attack by her dog, and a Good Samaritan in the right place at the right time to save a man from a killer riptide on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.