Virginia lawmakers are back in Richmond today for a special session to consider new gun law proposals from Gov. Ralph Northam.
Northam called the special session in June following the late May shooting deaths of 12 Virginia Beach city employees by a co-worker who had just resigned. The shooter used two semi-automatic handguns, a silencer and extended ammunition magazines.
On July 3, Northam announced his legislative agenda for the session.
“We continue to lose too many lives to senseless and preventable acts of gun violence, but we have the power to make meaningful change,” the governor said in a press release. “Now is the time to act — Virginians deserve votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers. I urge the members of the General Assembly to engage in a thorough, meaningful discussion about these proposed bills and to allow every member to cast their votes on the floor.”
Northam’s proposals include:
• Legislation requiring background checks on all firearms sales and transactions. The bill mandates that any person selling, renting, trading or transferring a firearm must first obtain the results of a background check before completing the transaction.
• Legislation banning dangerous weapons. This will include bans on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers.
• Legislation to reinstate Virginia’s law allowing only one handgun purchase within a 30-day period.
• Legislation requiring that lost and stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement within 24 hours.
• Legislation creating an “extreme risk protective order,” allowing law enforcement and the courts to temporarily separate a person from firearms if the person exhibits dangerous behavior that presents an immediate threat to self or others.
• Legislation prohibiting all individuals subject to final protective orders from possessing firearms. The bill expands Virginia law, which currently prohibits individuals subject to final protective orders of family abuse from possessing firearms.
• Legislation enhancing the punishment for allowing access to a loaded, unsecured firearm by a child from a Class 3 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony. The bill also raises the age of the child from 14 to 18.
• Legislation enabling localities to enact firearms ordinances that are stricter than state law. This includes regulating firearms in municipal buildings, libraries and at permitted events.
Republicans control both houses of the General Assembly and are expected to fight much of the governor’s legislative package. They have said they want to focus on criminal penalties related to gun crimes.
Some Republican lawmakers have accused Northam of using the Virginia Beach tragedy and the resulting legislative session to play politics and distract from scandals involving himself and his administration.
The National Rifle Association has gone on record opposing the governor’s proposals.