With a divided state legislature in my home state of Virginia, it remains to be seen whether any legislation of note will get to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk this year. Democrats hold a slim two-seat majority in the Senate, while Republicans have the same two-seat advantage in the House of Delegates, which means that both pro- and anti-2A bills are likely to be cancelled by the opposing party once they cross over.
Or rather, if they cross over. Just as state Senate committees have killed off a number of pro-2A bills this session, a key House committee put the kibosh on a slate of proposed restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms Thursday evening. But even though these infringements may be dead in the water this session, gun owners still need to be aware of the threat they pose in the future, especially since every seat in both legislative chambers is going to be up for grabs in the state’s off-year elections this November.
On a 6-4 vote, a House Public Safety subcommittee defeated a bill from Democratic Del. Dan Helmer that would have expanded the definition of “assault firearm” and prohibited the import, sale, transfer, manufacture, purchase or transport of such a gun.
The subcommittee also voted down a measure from Democratic Del. Sally Hudson, who represents Charlottesville, that would have made it unlawful to carry a firearm in any building owned or operated by a public institution of higher education.
Virginia colleges already ban weapons through their administrative processes, but those policies don’t carry the “full force of law” and leave law enforcement without the authority to enforce them, Hudson said.
“It creates a new gun-free zone without doing enough to protect and secure the facilities that we’re talking about,” said D.J. Spiker, a lobbyist for the NRA.
The bill was also voted down 6-4.
The panel also defeated a bill that would have tightened gun storage requirements. Del. Marcus Simon, the bill’s sponsor, invoked the case of a 6-year-old Newport News student who police say shot his teacher when explaining why he thinks the bill is necessary.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League and NRA also opposed Simon’s bill.
The same subcommittee advanced measures supported by gun rights groups that are likely to be defeated in the Senate. Among them was a measure from Del. Dave LaRock that would roll back the authority of localities to prohibit guns in certain public areas such as parks and community centers.
One of the big reasons why Democrats lost the governor’s race and control of the House back in 2021 was their rush to enact new gun control laws when they gained complete control of the state government in 2019. They approved about a half-dozen new measures aimed at weakening the right to keep and bear arms, though Gov. Ralph Northam’s attempt to enact a ban on so-called assault weapons failed when a few Democratic senators with significant rural constituencies sided with Republicans and voted down the bill in a Senate committee.
Northam’s push ignited a wildfire of opposition, with more than 100 counties, towns, and cities in Virginia adopting Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions and ordinances; many of them vowing not to use a penny of public money to enforce the ban if it was approved. The backlash didn’t subside once the session was over. Instead, gun owners took the first available opportunity to go to the polls and cast their votes against those who would criminalize their fundamental civil right to armed self-defense and helped deliver historic wins for Republicans in a state that most political pundits had written off as forever blue.
Even after a disastrous Election Day two years ago, Virginia Democrats are still trying to ban guns and turn law-abiding citizens into outlaws. Sen Creigh Deeds, who was one of the few Democrats to vote against Northam’s gun ban, has now introduced his own bill to ban “assault weapons”, and it’s already winning party-line votes in committee.
The good news is that if gun owners turn out in the same numbers as they did back in 2021 we have a great opportunity to both hold the House and capture the Senate, breaking the legislative logjam and allowing pro-2A bills to get to Glenn Youngkin’s desk. I think the Democrats are dumb to give voters such an explicit reminder of their desire to turn their constitutional rights into legal wrongs, and I’m confident that gun owners are going to remember in November when they head to the polls.