Four gun-control bills on Monday advanced in Virginia’s General Assembly, setting the stage for a contentious showdown between gun-rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to bring comprehensive changes to the state.
The bills that sailed through the state’s Judiciary Committee would require background checks on all firearms purchases, allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from people deemed to be a risk to themselves or others, limit handgun purchases to one a month and let localities decide whether to ban weapons from certain events.
The National Rifle Association said the new measures “will make it harder for law-abiding Virginians to protect themselves, while doing nothing to stop criminals.”
One measure that didn’t pass would have expanded the definition of “assault firearms” under Virginia law, outlaw their possession and prohibit the selling or transfer of any firearm magazine with the capacity for more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
“We are pleased one of the most egregious gun confiscation bills was pulled from consideration,” NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said in a statement. “The NRA will continue to work with our lawmakers to find solutions that address the root cause of violent crime, rather than punishing honest, hardworking Virginians.”
In the past, Democrats have complained when gun-control measures were quickly defeated in Republican-controlled committees. They believe the tides turned in November when the party flipped both the state Senate and the House of Delegates, giving them control of both the governor’s office and the legislature for the first time in a generation.
Following his reelection, Gov. Ralph Northam vowed to push through new gun-control measures and said it was a top priority for Virginia Democrats.
On Friday, Virginia lawmakers voted to ban firearms at the state capitol – a move that angered many Republicans and gun-rights advocates who showed up Monday wearing bright orange “Guns Save Lives” stickers and swarmed the state capitol.
Concerned by the intense backlash to the vote, the teenagers who usually work as House and Senate pages were given the day off, local media reported. There was also a larger police presence at the capitol.