Northam unveils gun violence prevention bills ahead of special session

Gov. Ralph Northam today announced his legislative agenda for the July 9 special session of the General Assembly. The special session is intended to address the gun violence emergency in Virginia.

“We continue to lose too many lives to senseless and preventable acts of gun violence, but we have the power to make meaningful change,” said Northam. “Now is the time to act—Virginians deserve votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers. I urge the members of the General Assembly to engage in a thorough, meaningful discussion about these proposed bills and to allow every member to cast their votes on the floor.”

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In 2017, there were 1,028 lives lost due to gun violence in Virginia, and this number rose in 2018. Since taking office, Governor Northam has consistently advanced and supported legislation that will prevent gun violence in the Commonwealth. Today, he announced a comprehensive package of eight bills that will save lives and improve public safety in our communities. The proposed package includes:

  • Legislation requiring background checks on all firearms sales and transactions. The bill mandates that any person selling, renting, trading, or transferring a firearm must first obtain the results of a background check before completing the transaction.
  • Legislation banning dangerous weapons. This will include bans on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers.
  • Legislation to reinstate Virginia’s successful law allowing only one handgun purchase within a 30-day period.
  • Legislation requiring that lost and stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement within 24 hours.
  • Legislation creating an Extreme Risk Protective Order, allowing law enforcement and the courts to temporarily separate a person from firearms if the person exhibits dangerous behavior that presents an immediate threat to self or others.
  • Legislation prohibiting all individuals subject to final protective orders from possessing firearms. The bill expands Virginia law which currently prohibits individuals subject to final protective orders of family abuse from possessing firearms.
  • Legislation enhancing the punishment for allowing access to loaded, unsecured firearm by a child from a Class 3 Misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony. The bill also raises the age of the child from 14 to 18.
  • Legislation enabling localities to enact any firearms ordinances that are stricter than state law. This includes regulating firearms in municipal buildings, libraries and at permitted events.

Gun violence is both a public safety and public health crisis in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Over the last few weeks, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran and Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey have led roundtable conversations across Virginia to engage with community leaders and the public on the issue of gun violence.

“Our communities lose over a thousand lives per year to gun violence, and suffer the devastation caused by these preventable tragedies on a daily basis,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “These proposals will undoubtedly save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of individuals who intend to do harm to themselves or others, stemming the illegal flow of firearms into our communities, and ensuring that our citizens do not have easy access to exceptionally lethal weapons like assault firearms.”

“In communities across Virginia, people are experiencing gun violence in their homes, schools, and workplaces, and the physical and emotional trauma they face as a result is a public health crisis,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, M.D. “As with any public health issue, the focus must be on prevention and intervention. Governor Northam’s multifaceted approach does just that.”

“Virginians should not have to live in fear when they leave their homes to go to work, school, their place of worship, a movie theater, or a concert,” said Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw. “Enough is enough. Our citizens deserve action and it’s time we show them that we mean business by passing these bills.”

“Every year, we fight to pass commonsense legislation to prevent gun violence in the Commonwealth, and every year our efforts are blocked,” said House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn. “It is time that we come together and enact these life-saving measures because doing nothing is not an option.”

The special session will begin on July 9. The General Assembly will adopt procedures and rules and set the agenda for the special session.



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