A ban on unfinished firearms is among three pieces of gun-related legislation approved by the Democrat-controlled House of Delegates in Virginia on Wednesday.
HB 2276 creates a crime out the manufacture, import, sale, transfer, or possession of plastic firearms and unfinished frames or receivers and unserialized firearms. The bill is part of a nationwide effort by gun control activists to target so-called ghost guns; firearms that have been built by private citizens and not firearms manufacturers. Under federal law, those homemade guns don’t require a serial number as long as they remain in the hands of the person who built it.
As I Virginia gun owner I’m contacting my state Senator and urging him to reject the bill, not only on constitutional grounds but as a practical matter as well. Take a look at the language of the bill and see if you spot the problem.
The bill also creates several Class 1 misdemeanors, which are punishable as a Class 4 felony for a second or subsequent offense, making it unlawful (i) for any person to possess, sell, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, transport, or receive an unfinished frame or receiver or firearm, unless the party possessing or receiving the unfinished frame or receiver or firearm is a federal firearms importer or manufacturer or the unfinished frame or receiver or firearm is imprinted with a serial number issued by a federal firearms importer or manufacturer and (ii) for any person to manufacture, cause to be manufactured, assemble, or cause to be assembled a firearm that is not imprinted with a serial number issued by a federal firearms importer or manufacturer in compliance with all federal laws and regulations regulating the manufacture and import of firearms.
What exactly is an “unfinished” frame, receiver, or firearm? Obviously the author of the bill believes that 80% finished frames and receivers could be defined that way, but what about a frame that was 50% complete? 25% complete? Theoretically, a solid block of aluminum or a spool of 3D printing polycarbonate could be an unfinished firearm if the owner intends to turn that material into a gun.
As we recently pointed out, it’s possible to make a gun from almost everything, including an old shovel. The legislation approved by the Virginia House doesn’t define an “unfinished firearm,” which leaves this bill open to abuse by overzealous anti-gun prosecutors.
In addition to the vague and open-ended ban on unfinished and 3D-printed firearms, the House approved two other gun bills on Wednesday.
HB 1909 would allow a school board to ban guns on its’ property. It would also ban anyone from knowingly possessing, buying or carrying a firearm and ammunition while on that property. Law enforcement officers and qualified retired law enforcement officers would be exempt.
HB 2128 would increase the amount of time the Department of State Police is given to complete a background check before a firearm is transferred from three to five business days.
Under HB 2128, a dealer who has otherwise fulfilled all requirements for a sale or transfer can complete the action if state police say a response will not be available by the end of the dealer’s fifth business day. In those circumstances, the dealer would not be found in violation.
Virginia Democrats have avoided major gun control issues like Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed ban on modern sporting rifles, “high capacity” magazines, and legally-owned suppressors in the current legislative session. After all, this is an election year in the Commonwealth, and with gun sales at an all time high Democrats don’t want to draw too much attention to their anti-gun agenda.
Instead, they’re trying to fly under the radar with smaller, more targeted pieces of legislation, but unfortunately the target of these lawmakers are the legal gun owners of Virginia. When Democrats have focused on criminals this session, it’s been to approve bills that would release criminals before their sentences have been served and end mandatory minimum sentences; including those for violent crimes.
I happen to think that infringing on the rights of Virginians while empowering criminals in the state isn’t a winning political strategy, but most Democrats obviously believe otherwise. I’d like to think that there are enough rural Democrats in the state Senate to reject these gun control bills, but I’m not particularly optimistic. I’ll still be contacting my elected officials about these bills, but I suspect that we may end up having to challenge these provisions in court before long.
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