The Conundrum of Virginia’s Gun Laws

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Gwynith Hayden

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During the course of the past year, many debates involving gun rights and the Second Amendment have become an extremely hot topic in my home state of Virginia.

The debate was brewing across the country in the wake of the influx of school shootings that took place over the course of 2018 and 2019. The catalyst for it to finally reach Virginia came after the tragedy in Virginia Beach, where 13 lives were lost.

Throughout the past two decades, Virginia has been slowly turning from a solid-red Republican state to a deep purple mix.

This is most likely due to the explosion in population in the Northern Virginia area surrounding Washington DC, where the younger generations have been settling.

More and more left-leaning policies have been slowly put into place, but one area of legislation still stands out: guns. Governor Ralph Northam clearly wants it to change.

Currently, Virginia has some very lax policies regarding firearms such as: the state does not require a permit to purchase handguns, rifles, and shotguns; firearms do not require a registration, nor a license, and a permit is not required to carry a rifle or a shotgun.

The laws also do not require a waiting period before purchasing a gun, as well as not requiring owners to report their gun lost or stolen.

The Democrat legislators of Virginia want to significantly tighten these laws and impose more and more restrictions.

Such ideas brought forward by the government have included:

  • The ban of “assault weapons,” silencers, high-capacity magazines (more than 12 rounds), and other weapons deemed “dangerous.”
  • Require a background check for every transaction involving a firearm.
  • Allow cities to impose stricter laws than at the state level such as prohibiting firearms in schools, libraries, and municipal buildings.
  • Allow law enforcement to confiscate firearms from individuals deemed “unsafe” or “dangerous.”
  • Reinstate the law that limits purchases to one firearm a month (a law like this was in place until it was repealed in 2012)
  • Require owners to report lost or missing firearms within one day.

These new bills have been met with fierce opposition from gun rights groups such as the NRA, as well as many groups within the state.

As a result, many Republican counties in the state have declared themselves to be “Second Amendment sanctuaries” and promise to resist any legislation imposed that would infringe upon the Second Amendment.

The Culpeper County Sheriff even promised to deputize citizens if new legislation is passed. As of February 2020, 91 out of the 95 Virginian counties had enacted Second Amendment sanctuary measures. Sixteen out of the 38 independent cities have done likewise. The opposition grew so great, that on January 20th, 22,000 people took to the streets of Richmond and protested in front of the Capitol building.

So far, it seems like the protests are working. On February 17th, the bill banning the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which Governor Northam spearheaded, failed in the state senate. Four moderate Democrats joined with senate Republicans and voted to shelve the legislation for one year.

While this may seem like a temporary victory, it is a small step forward, will we continue to see this progress being made? Possibly. The lighter regulations may still get through, but as time goes by, the 2021 elections continue to get closer and closer.

Sources:

Virginia Gun Laws

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