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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Legislative Update

As we approach the final week of the Virginia General Assembly, it is likely we will end with no new gun control laws and few advancements in our rights.

A quick look at the VSSA Legislative Tracking Form tells the story.  A number of pro-rights bills were either carried over to next year (a soft way of killing a bill) or were killed out right in the State Senate after the anti-rights crowd took control of Senate Courts of Justice mid way through the session.  For instance, HB 878, a bill that would have improved the process for purchasing firearms and accessories covered by the National Firearms Act (NFA) passed the House, but was killed by the new anti-rights majority on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.  Lifetime concealed handgun permits made it out of the Senate on a bi-partisan vote but has been stalled in the House because of concerns with the State Police handling the application process.

On the bright side, all of the anti-rights bills have been defeated.  Thankfully, most of the bad bills went through Senate Courts of Justice before the power shift.  There are two minor bills (companion bills) HB 810 and SB 65, dealing with so-called "Celebratory Gun Fire" that are still hanging around.  It's not that VSSA supports the practice, but the fact that there are already laws dealing with negligent discharge and the fact that unless you see the individual violate the law, exactly how will it be enforced?  HB 810 had been significantly neutered to a bill dealing with the original issue, was amended to address malicious wounding.  It passed the House but was amended back the the version of Senator Marsh's bill (SB 65) when it got to Senate Courts of Justice.  The House of Delegates rejected the amendments and it is now headed to conference.  The House has amended SB 65 to the way HB 810 left the House of Delegates and is currently in the Appropriations Committee.  It is likely to meet the same fate as HB 810 if it gets back to the Senate, and both bills may be killed for lack of action by a conference committee.

Also on the positive side, working with the NRA, NSSF, and other pro hunting groups, we were able to pass a bill allowing Sunday hunting on private property.  This is a win for property rights while balancing the interests of those who wish to use public land on Sundays for the purpose of hiking, horseback riding, or biking.  A spokesman for the Governor indicated he would sign the bill.  That has not stopped opponents from trying to gut the bill however.  A move is underway to encourage local Board of Supervisors to pass resolutions encouraging McAuliffe to amend the bill with a provision making it a local option allowing Sunday hunting on private land.  Supporters of Sunday Hunting should contact Governor McAuliffe and urge him to sign HB 1237.

With one week left, the general assessment of the 2014 Session is that we are ending about as we expected - with the status quo.  For all his bluster late in the campaign, McAuliffe has not lifted a finger to help pass the large number of gun control bills introduced.  The gun ban lobby's attempt to push bills like SB 510, part of a new strategy that would take away a person's civil rights for certain misdemeanor conviction, failed.  Rest assured they will be back next year, and this time they have a willing majority in Senate Courts of Justice with which to work..

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