The Anti-Gun Juggernaut That’s About to Hit Virginia

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Posted: Nov 29, 2019 6:30 PM
The Anti-Gun Juggernaut That’s About to Hit Virginia

Source: AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Well, maybe we had hoped for a better result in November, but the fact is right now—Virginia is a blue state. It’s a variety of factors. The demographics are changing, moderate Republican voters in the suburbs have fled the party due to President Trump, and the Virginia Republican Party has been something of a mess. It’s been nearly a decade since they won a statewide race—need I say more? And nearly a quarter of the state senate races lacked a Republican opponent. When you don’t show up to compete, you’re not going to win. It’s that simple. The state legislature was already hanging in the balance between two and one-seat majorities in the Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate, respectively. This was going to be a slog. The National Rifle Association and VA Republicans promised to fight to protect these rights and hold the line

Well, on that front, holding the line has been similar to the New York Giants’ offensive line play—a bloody turnstile. Anti-gun Democrats had scored state-based victories after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. They wanted more and they got it in the Old Dominion. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s umbrella of anti-gun networks kept up writing those checks and they have helped flip the state. 

With Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam surviving his blackface-wearing scandal because his own side didn’t want to oust him, he now has command of everything in Richmond. For the first time in roughly two decades, Democrats control Virginia. And yes, an anti-gun assault is about to be launched. 

The first pages of this playbook were unveiled during the special session this summer that was shut down by Virginia Republicans, but the plans were what you’d expect to see from Maryland, New Jersey, or any anti-gun state. And yes, confiscation was on the docket [emphasis mine]:

 18.2-308.8. Importation, sale, possession, etc., of assault firearms prohibited; penalty.

A. For purposes of this section:

"Assault firearm" means:

1. A semi-automatic center-fire rifle that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material with a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 10 rounds;

2. A semi-automatic center-fire rifle that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material that has the ability to accept a detachable magazineand has one of the following characteristics: (i) a folding or telescoping stock; (ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the rifle; (iii) a thumbhole stock; (iv) a second handgrip or a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand; (v) a bayonet mount; (vi) a grenade launcher; (vii) a flare launcher; (viii) a silencer; (ix) a flash suppressor; (x) a muzzle brake; (xi) a muzzle compensator; (xii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting (a) a silencer, (b) a flash suppressor, (c) a muzzle brake, or (d) a muzzle compensator; or (xiii) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (xii);

3. A semi-automatic center-fire pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material with a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 10 rounds;

4. A semi-automatic center-fire pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has one of the following characteristics: (i) a folding or telescoping stock; (ii) a thumbhole stock; (iii) a second handgrip or a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand; (iv) the capacity to accept a magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip; (v) a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the pistol with the non-trigger hand without being burned; (vi) a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded; (vii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting (a) a silencer, (b) a flash suppressor, (c) a barrel extender, or (d) a forward handgrip; or (viii) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (vii);

5. A shotgun with a revolving cylinder that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material; or

6. A semi-automatic shotgun that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material that has one of the following characteristics: (i) a folding or telescoping stock, (ii) a thumbhole stock, (iii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the shotgun, (iv) the ability to accept a detachable magazine, (v) a fixed magazine capacity in excess of seven rounds, or (vi) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (v).

"Assault firearm" includes any part or combination of parts designed or intended to convert, modify, or otherwise alter a firearm into an assault firearm, or any combination of parts that may be readily assembled into an assault firearm. "Assault firearm" does not include (i) a firearm that has been rendered permanently inoperable, (ii) an antique firearm as defined in § 18.2-308.2:2, or (iii) a curio or relic as defined in § 18.2-308.2:2.

B. It shall be is unlawful for any person to import, sell, possess or transfer the following firearms: the Striker 12, commonly called a "streetsweeper," or any semi-automatic folding stock shotgun of like kind with a spring tension drum magazine capable of holding twelve shotgun shells, manufacture, purchase, possess, or transport an assault firearm. A violation of this section shall be is punishable as a Class 6 felony.

C. The provisions of this section shall not apply to (i) any government officer, agent, or employee, or member of the Armed Forces of the United States, to the extent that such person is acquiring, possessing, transferring, or transporting an assault firearm within the scope of his official duties; (ii) the manufacture of an assault firearm by a firearms manufacturer for the purpose of sale to any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States or to a law-enforcement agency in the Commonwealth for use by that agency or its employees, provided that the manufacturer is properly licensed under federal, state, and local laws; or (iii) the sale or transfer of an assault firearm by a licensed dealer to any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States or to a law-enforcement agency in the Commonwealth for use by that agency or its employees.

§ 18.2-308.9. Import, sale, possession, etc., of certain firearm magazines; penalty.

A. For purposes of this section, "large-capacity firearm magazine" means any firearm magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device that has the capacity of, or can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition, including any such device with a removable floor plate or end plate if the device can be readily extended to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition. "Large-capacity firearm magazine" does not include (i) a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device that has been permanently altered so that it cannot accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition or (ii) an attached tubular device designed to accept and only capable of operating with .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.

B. It is unlawful for any person to import, sell, transfer, manufacture, purchase, possess, or transport any large-capacity firearm magazine. A violation of this section is punishable as a Class 6 felony.

C. The provisions of this section shall not apply to (i) any government officer, agent, or employee, or member of the Armed Forces of the United States, to the extent that such person is acquiring, possessing, transferring, or transporting a large-capacity firearm magazine within the scope of his official duties; (ii) the manufacture of a large-capacity firearm magazine by a firearms manufacturer for the purpose of sale to any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States or to a law-enforcement agency in the Commonwealth for use by that agency or its employees, provided that the manufacturer is properly licensed under federal, state, and local laws; or (iii) the sale or transfer of a large-capacity firearm magazine to any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States or to a law-enforcement agency in the Commonwealth for use by that agency or its employees.

§ 18.2-308.10. Import, sale, possession, etc., of silencers; penalty.

A. For purposes of this section, "silencer" means any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a firearm, including any part or combination of parts designed or intended for use in assembling or fabricating such a device.

B. It is unlawful for any person to import, sell, transfer, manufacture, purchase, possess, or transport a silencer. A violation of this section is punishable as a Class 6 felony.

C. The provisions of this section shall not apply to (i) any government officer, agent, or employee, or member of the Armed Forces of the United States, to the extent that such person is acquiring, possessing, transferring, or transporting a silencer within the scope of his official duties; (ii) the manufacture of a silencer by a firearms manufacturer for the purpose of sale to any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States or to a law-enforcement agency in the Commonwealth for use by that agency or its employees, provided that the manufacturer is properly licensed under federal, state, and local laws; or (iii) the sale or transfer of a silencer to any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States or to a law-enforcement agency in the Commonwealth for use by that agency or its employees.

§ 18.2-308.11. Import, sale, possession, etc., of trigger activators prohibited; penalty.

A. For the purposes of the section, "trigger activator" means any device that allows a semi-automatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger by harnessing the recoil energy of any semi-automatic firearm to which it is affixed so that the trigger resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter.

B. It is unlawful for any person to import, sell, transfer, manufacture, purchase, possess, or transport any trigger activator. A violation of this section is punishable as a Class 6 felony.

§ 18.2-308.12. Surrender, etc., of prohibited assault firearm, firearm magazine, silencer, and trigger activator.

Any person who legally owns an assault firearm, as defined in § 18.2-308.8; large-capacity firearm magazine, as defined in § 18.2-308.9; silencer, as defined in § 18.2-308.10; or trigger activator, as defined in § 18.2-308.11, on November 1, 2019, may retain possession of such assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator until July 1, 2020. During this time period, such person shall (i) render the assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator permanently inoperable; (ii) remove the assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator from the Commonwealth; (iii) transfer the assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator to a person outside the Commonwealth who is not prohibited from possessing the assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator; or (iv) surrender the assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator to a state or local law-enforcement agency. The provisions of § 15.2-915.5 shall not apply to any assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator surrendered to a local law-enforcement agency pursuant to this section.

With no GOP opposition, Virginia Democrats are putting the Second Amendment in the crosshairs. Some legislation will come from the House of Delegates, others from the Senate. But one handgun a month, an old law that was repealed under McDonnell, is being revived. An assault weapons ban, increasing the age to purchase firearms, magazine limits, and universal background checks appear to be all on the docket.

HB 2:

Firearm transfers; criminal history record information checks; penalty. Requires a background check for any firearm transfer and directs the Department of State Police (the Department) to establish a process for transferors to obtain such a check from licensed firearms dealers. A transferor who sells a firearm to another person without obtaining the required background check is guilty of a Class 6 felony. The bill also provides that a transferee who receives a firearm from another person without obtaining the required background check is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The bill exempts transfers (i) between immediate family members; (ii) that occur by operation of law; (iii) by the executor or administrator of an estate or by the trustee of a testamentary trust; (iv) at firearms shows in accordance with law; (v) that are part of a buy-back or give-back program; (vi) of antique firearms; (vii) that occur at a shooting range, shooting gallery, or any other area designed for the purpose of target shooting, for use during target practice, a firearms safety or training course or class, a shooting competition, or any similar lawful activity; or (viii) that are temporary transfers that (a) occur within the continuous presence of the owner of the firearm or (b) are necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. The bill removes the provision that makes background checks of prospective purchasers or transferees at firearms shows voluntary. The bill also provides that the Department shall have three business days to complete a criminal history record information check before a firearm may be transferred. The bill establishes an appropriation for the fiscal impact of the bill and authorizes the Director of the Department of Planning and Budget to allocate such appropriation among the agencies and programs impacted by the bill.

SB 16:

Prohibiting sale, transport, etc., of assault firearms and certain firearm magazines; penalties. Expands the definition of "assault firearm" and prohibits any person from importing, selling, transferring, manufacturing, purchasing, possessing, or transporting an assault firearm. A violation is a Class 6 felony. The bill prohibits a dealer from selling, renting, trading, or transferring from his inventory an assault firearm to any person. The bill also prohibits a person from carrying a shotgun with a magazine that will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered in a public place; under existing law, this prohibition applies only in certain localities. The bill makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to import, sell, barter, or transfer any firearm magazine designed to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

SB 18:

Firearms; criminal history record information checks; age requirement; penalty. Provides that a person must be at least 21 years old, or must be at least 18 years old by the effective date of the bill, to purchase a firearm. The bill requires a background check for any firearm transfer and requires the Department of State Police to establish a process for transferors of firearms to obtain such a check from licensed firearms dealers. A transferor who fails to obtain a required background check and transfers the firearm to another person is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The bill exempts certain transfers from the required background check. The bill removes the provision that makes background checks of prospective purchasers or transferees at firearms shows voluntary. The bill also provides that any person who recklessly leaves a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any person under the age of 18 is guilty of a Class 6 felony and that it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for any person knowingly to authorize a child under the age 18 to use a firearm except when the person is under the supervision of an adult. Current law provides that any person who recklessly leaves a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of 14 is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor and it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for any person knowingly to authorize a child under the age 12 to use a firearm except when the person is under the supervision of an adult. The bill also raises the age from 18 to 21 for any person to knowingly and intentionally possess or transport a handgun or assault firearm anywhere in the Commonwealth.

SB 22:

Purchase of handguns; limitation on handgun purchases; penalty. Prohibits any person who is not a licensed firearms dealer from purchasing more than one handgun in a 30-day period and establishes such an offense as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The bill exempts from this provision (i) persons who have been issued a certificate by the Department of State Police under certain circumstances and with an enhanced background check, (ii) law-enforcement agencies and officers, (iii) state and local correctional facilities, (iv) licensed private security companies, (v) persons who hold a valid Virginia concealed handgun permit, (vi) persons whose handgun has been stolen or irretrievably lost or who are trading in a handgun, (vii) purchases of handguns in a private sale, and (viii) purchases of antique firearms.

As Obama and others have said, elections have consequences. Here, in Virginia, it applies just the same. For a decade, the GOP did hold the line, but the serial failure to find winning candidates prevented a further entrenchment and defensive layer for gun rights here. It’s now up to groups, like the Virginia Citizens Defense League, to turn up the pressure and get just a handful of Democrats to prevent any measure moving forward. Outside of Northern Virginia, there may be a couple of pro-gun rights Democrats. We only need a handful. In the meantime, the VCDL believes the Democrats’ anti-gun agenda has awakened a “sleeping giant,” with scores of Virginia counties declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries. When Attorney General Mark Herring, another blackface-wearing Democrat, tried to shred concealed carry rights in the state, the backlash produced one of the best compromises in recent memory for carry rights in the state. In fact, it arguably made Virginia one of the best states regarding concealed carry. The need for some people to obtain a Nevada permit was no longer necessary under the new package laws that were signed by former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Yet, that’s also when the legislature was under Republican control. Still, it was a surprising development. Maybe we’ll get that here, though loads of doubt abound on this front now that the anti-gun Left is in the driver’s seat. 

Let’s hope a more watered-down version is agreed to, which still isn’t good, but we can at least have some breathing room before Maryland-style gun control is enacted here. Yet, even then, if the Democrats decide to go more middle ground on gun policy, it could simply be a ploy for them to roll the dice at the ballot box again and hope for an increased majority in the legislature that will allow Democrats to go full Bloomberg on the Second Amendment.