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Virginia House of Delegates passes gun reform package

virginia general assembly
Photo Credit: traveler1116/iStock Photo

Supermajorities of Virginians support common-sense gun reforms. The House of Delegates, now under Democratic control, has taken note.

The House voted Thursday to pass a package of seven bills aimed at reforming Virginia’s gun laws, with legislation to implement universal background checks, authorizing extreme risk protection orders, limiting handgun purchases to one per month, compelling gun owners to report lost or stolen guns, protecting children from reckless storage of firearms, disarming domestic abusers, and giving localities the authority to regulate firearms all getting majority support.

The Senate is working on its own gun-reform package, so the House passage was just a step in the process.

But, an important one.

“The march towards a safer Virginia took a major step forward today,” said Molly Voigt, state legislative manager at Giffords, the non-profit gun-control group founded by Gabrielle Giffords, a former congresswoman who survived a 2011 assassination attempt that ultimately took the lives of six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

“Swiftly approving the package, delegates stepped up to prioritize a slate of strong, common-sense gun safety policies that had been blocked for years in the Commonwealth by politicians backed by the NRA,” Voigt said. “While gun rights extremists have resorted to intimidation, the House today stood tall by passing seven strong pieces of legislation. We applaud the passage of these bills. Change for gun safety in Virginia is now one step closer to becoming a reality.”

The strongest bill in the package passed Thursday is HB 2, which would close the legal loophole that allows unlicensed sellers to sell guns without background checks.

The loophole is exploited by people prohibited from possessing firearms, including felons, domestic abusers, and fugitives, allowing them to easily obtain guns. An estimated 80 percent guns used in the commission of crimes are obtained from sources not required to do background checks.

Another strong bill passed Thursday is HB 674, which would create a process to enable law enforcement officers in these situations to seek a court order, modeled on the domestic violence protective order process. The orders would temporarily remove guns from the person in crisis, preventing suicides and mass shootings, as similar orders are already doing in 17 other states.

Under a similar law in Connecticut, research found that one life was saved for every 10 cases where guns were temporarily removed.

Other laws in the package:

  • HB 812 would reinstitute the one-gun-a-month limit that was state law from 1993 to 2012, when it was made political theater by Republicans in advance of the 2013 state elections. The bill does offer an exception allowing a person to get a special waiver if they go through an enhanced background check.
  • HB 312 would give cities, towns and counties independent authority to tackle gun violence through local laws.
  • HB 9 would require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns to law enforcement. The bill is modeled on laws in 11 states and the District of Columbia.
  • HB 1009 would prohibit people subject to protective orders for family abuse from possessing firearms and call for them to surrender their firearms when the protective order is issued.
  • HB 463 would make it a Class 6 felony to leave a loaded, unsecured firearm accessible to minors. Current state law makes that crime a Class 3 misdemeanor.

None of this is in the vein of disarming responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

Remember that when you hear the nonsense rhetoric from the fire-breathing partisans.

This is just common-sense stuff.

“Today we fulfilled our promise to make Virginia’s communities safer from preventable gun violence,” House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said in a statement today. “Too many Virginians have lost a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker because their elected representatives refused to take measures to keep firearms away from those who would do harm to themselves or others. While today’s actions will not lessen the grief of those who have lost loved ones to gun violence, the legislation passed in the House of Delegates will prevent more senseless deaths and make our Commonwealth safer.”

Story by Chris Graham

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