State Democrats Waste No Time; Move Ahead Several Gun-Control Proposals

Jan 13, 2020

Visitors, legislators and staff all faced long lines this morning because of new security measures to keep guns out of the state capitol. And Democrats took quick action on other measures to restrict access to guns.

Democrats wasted no time taking acting on their top priority for this year’s General Assembly session: restricting access to guns. A Senate panel passed background checks, a red-flag law, increasing local control to limit firearms and imposing a one-handgun-a-month restriction.

Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw says restricting access to guns will make Virginia safer.

It was a busy day at the Capitol for people on both sides of the gun debate. D.J. Spiker, head of the Virginia NRA, appeared at a press conference with Republican lawmakers opposed to restrictions on firearms.
Credit Michael Pope

“You don’t see easy access to weapons in Hawaii, and as a result they have virtually no gun homicides there,” he says.

Democrats campaigned on this, and they won the majority in both the House and Senate in part based on their willingness to implement these restrictions. But House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert says none of these bills will make anybody any safer.

“The only thing that stops evil is somebody prepared to stop it," Gilbert says. "And so many law-abiding Virginians are about to have their ability to do that impacted by laws that are only aimed at them, and not against criminals who use guns for bad things.”

One bill that attracted some opposition from Democrats was the red-flag law, which some Democrats say might violate Constitutional protections against improper search and seizure. Here's Democratic Senator Joe Morrissey of Richmond:

“There’s one bill that I was troubled with, and that was the red-flag law giving the police the power to take a search warrant and go into the home. I’m really concerned about individual rights there," he says. "I won’t end up voting for that bill unless that provision is removed from it.”

Another bill that was put on hold was the assault weapons ban, which opponents say would make criminals out of tens of thousands of people in Virginia who already own the type of guns that would be outlawed with no grandfather provision.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.