Senate Courts of Justice Committee defeats gun safety bills
One of the most significant bills presented by State Sen. Barbara Favola to the Committee was Senate Bill (SB) 63, a bill to empower local governments to prohibit the “open carry” of firearms in protests or demonstrations within their localities. The bill was similar to SB 630, a bill submitted by Senator McClellan on behalf of the Governor’s office, and the two pieces of legislation were combined as SB 630.
“Regarding, SB63, it was my hope that lawmakers would better understand the need for people to feel safe and be safe when they assemble.”
Many people spoke in support of the legislation including two members of the Charlottesville City Council, Councilors Kathleen M. Galvin and Dr. Wesley Bellamy. The President of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and representatives of Moms Demanding Action also spoke to the committee.
It is important to note that the Heller Opinion, a decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the majority, reiterated that the right put forth in the Second Amendment “… is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” (Page 54.)
Localities should be empowered to regulate their permitting process in order to best ensure public safety and peaceful assembly, just as the state already does. According to Favola, what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia on August of 2017, is a tragic example of the need for this legislation.
Favola’s efforts to create sensible gun related policy in the Commonwealth are an on-going priority for the Northern Virginia Democrat who represents portions of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudon Counties.
Senate Bill 732, which was also on the January 15 docket for the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, would require a perpetrator convicted of two misdemeanors for sexual assault of a household member or two misdemeanors of stalking offenses to give up possession of firearms for two years before petitioning the Court for firearm restoration rights. Favola introduced the legislation in a previous General Assembly session and continues to advocate for policies that prevent the escalation of domestic violence.
Referencing statistical evidence, Favola said “About 4,000 women die each year due to domestic violence and studies have indicated that a woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increases 500% if the abuser has access to a firearm. By prohibiting possession of a firearm by someone with a history of domestic violence would allow for police intervention, should a violation occur, and consequently empower a woman to protect herself and her family.
Despite public support from advocates, such as Moms Demanding Action, SB 732 was passed by indefinitely by a nine to six vote along party line, with Republican members in the majority.
Republican committee members also voted to defeat legislation intended to expand the hate crimes statute to include those with disabilities (SB45) and other categories of individuals including gender, sexual orientation and gender identity (SB112); and a bill that dealt with the reporting of lost or stolen firearms (SB 119).