Virginia Republicans have largely been unified in their opposition to the Democrats' aggressive anti-gun agenda this year, but will that remain the case when these gun control bills land on Gov. Glenn Youngkin's desk?
After the state Senate approved its version of an "assault weapons" ban on Wednesday, Republican Sen. Bill Stanley guaranteed that the governor would veto the legislation, but that's far from the only regressive gun control bill that's headed his way.
Another bill passed by the Virginia Senate would ban carrying semi-automatic guns in public places, a measure that Democrats said would help ease people’s concerns over potential violence and that Republicans argued is unconstitutional.
Surovell said on the Senate floor that the bill aims to stop people from using semi-automatic weapons “to intimidate” others in public.
“Do we really believe that this legislation is going to stop someone who has murder in his heart from committing that murder? It is not,” state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) said before the bill passed 21-19.
While these measures have fueled debate in the legislature, they appear likely to be vetoed. And with such close margins in both chambers, Democrats don’t have the numbers to override a Youngkin veto.
Some gun bills have advanced with bipartisan support, a potentially complicating factor in Youngkin’s veto decisions.
One bill that has moved forward with wide bipartisan support, including a unanimous vote in the House, would ban devices known as “auto sears” that convert firearms to shoot automatically more than one shot without manual reloading.
The Senate’s version of the bill passed 28-12, with seven Republicans voting for it and 12 voting against it.
Another Democrat-backed gun bill that got Republican votes would make it a felony for gun owners to allow a child who poses a potential risk to have access to a firearm.
According to the Virginia Citizens Defense League, 47 anti-2A measures have been introduced in the General Assembly this year, and as Phillip Van Cleave recently reported to members, so far he's not seen a single Democrat in either the House or Senate who's vocalized any opposition or objection to any of the bills that infringes on our right to keep and bear arms.
The same could be said for Youngkin, who's playing his cards close to his ever-present vest. During the governor's State of the Commonwealth address a few weeks ago he said the state already has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation and encouraged Democrats to focus on violent criminals instead of lawful gun owners, but his office hasn't weighed in on any of the specific gun control measures that are advancing through the legislature.
Youngkin's press office did not directly respond to questions about his position on a range of bills but said he would review any legislation that comes to his desk.
The administration's silence has left advocates on both sides of the issue uncertain of the final outcome.
“He basically telegraphed a message of, ‘If you're going to send me more gun control, I'm not going to be happy with it.’ But that’s all we know," said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a grassroots gun-rights group.
Democrats only have one-seat majorities in the House and Senate, so any bill that Youngkin vetoes will be dead for the year. If the governor has any aspirations for political office after his term expires in two years, he needs to stand firm against the onslaught of gun control legislation that the Left is sending his way, but he also needs to hear from the tens of thousands of Virginia gun owners who packed Capitol Square and downtown Richmond in 2020 to show their opposition to a proposed semi-auto ban and other anti-gun measures. We were able to defeat that bill four years ago thanks to a handful of Democrat senators who were willing to buck party leadership, but this year they've all fallen in line behind the most aggressive anti-gun agenda that we've ever seen in Richmond.
If we're going to keep Virginia from turning into East California in terms of our gun laws, Youngkin's going to have to step up and shut down these infringements, and I wouldn't wait until these bills land on his desk to contact his office and voice your opposition. I'd like to think he'll do the right thing, but we can't take it for granted that he'll use his veto power to block every one of these infringements from being enacted into law.