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Thursday, February 5, 2015

House Subcommittee Defeats Gun Control Bills, Advances Pro-rights Bills

Militia, Police and Public Safety Subcommittee #1 met Thursday afternoon and dealt a fatal blow to three more gun control bills:

HB2045 Protective orders; possession of firearms; penalty. Prohibits a person who is subject to a protective order from possessing a firearm; currently, such person is only prohibited from purchasing or transporting a firearm. Such conduct is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Defeated

HB2328 Protective orders; person must surrender any firearms, penalty. Provides that a person who is subject to a protective order must surrender any firearm possessed by him to the court within 24 hours of being served with the protective order. The court shall prepare a written receipt, which shall be signed by the person surrendering the firearm, containing the name of the person, the date on which it was surrendered, and the manufacturer, model, and serial number of the firearm and provide a copy of the receipt to the court. The bill provides further that the person may present the copy of the receipt to the court upon the expiration of the protective order and the court shall then return the firearm. The failure to surrender a firearm is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The bill also prohibits a person who is subject to a protective order from possessing a firearm, where currently such person is only prohibited from purchasing or transporting a firearm. Defeated

HB2359 Concealed handgun permits; proof of competence. Makes various changes to the types of training courses permitted to satisfy the requirement to demonstrate competence with a handgun in order to obtain a concealed handgun permit, including (i) requiring that a National Rifle Association (NRA) or Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) training course focus on the use and handling of a concealed handgun; (ii) requiring that a law-enforcement officer qualify to carry a handgun rather than a firearm in the course of normal police duties; and (iii) requiring that online NRA or DCJS training courses be synchronous. The bill also eliminates certain existing methods for demonstrating competence with a handgun, including (a) completing a hunter education or safety course; (b) completing a law-enforcement firearms safety or training course offered to security guards, investigators, special deputies, or any other division of law enforcement or security enforcement; and (c) having previously held a concealed handgun permit. The bill also provides that any proof of demonstrated competence with a handgun shall expire five years from the date of completion of such course or class. Defeated

Unfortunately, the subcommittee also decided against reporting Delegate Ware's Lifetime Concealed Handgun Permit bill (HB1359).  The problem with both the House and the Senate bills was no fee had been assigned to the lifetime permit.  Both required the State Police to do periodic background checks during the life of the permits.  Because no revenue was assigned to the bills, the current budget shortfall meant that the money committees were not going to advance bills that had a fiscal impact.  This gives us a year to work on the bill, determine a reasonable fee, and convince the legislature that the background checks can be done without a negative fiscal impact to the budget.

On a positive note, the subcommittee recommended reporting HB1329, Delegate Ware's bill that removes certain requirements for an out-of-state concealed handgun permit or license to be recognized and accepted in Virginia and instead requires an out-of-state permit or license holder to carry a government-issued photo identification and present such identification upon demand by a law-enforcement officer in order for his out-of-state permit or license to be recognized and accepted in Virginia.  The bill now moves to the full committee.

The subcommittee also recommended reporting HB2009, which requires when certification of a chief law-enforcement officer is required by federal law for transfer of a firearm as defined in the National Firearms Act, such certification must be provided within 60 days if the applicant is not prohibited by law from receiving the firearm.  For the purposes of this measure, the definition of "firearm" is limited to machine guns, rifles and shotguns of a certain length, weapons made from certain rifles or shotguns, and silencers. If the chief law-enforcement officer fails to provide certification within 60 days, the applicant has a right to an ore tenus hearing in circuit court and, unless the evidence shows that the applicant is prohibited by law from receiving the firearm, the court shall order the chief law-enforcement officer to issue the certification within five business days. 

HB2029 was also recommended for reporting.  HB2029 provides that a licensed firearms dealer does not have to have a criminal background check performed to determine a person's eligibility to purchase a firearm if the purchaser possesses a valid concealed handgun permit and presents a photo ID issued by an agency of the Commonwealth or the Department of Defense. The bill also requires that the State Police, in preparing the report from the Central Criminal Records Exchange for the circuit court with regard to an applicant for a concealed handgun permit, shall initiate a search of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for purposes of obtaining criminal history record information regarding the applicant. 

Finally, the subcommittee recommended reporting HB2214 and referring the bill to House Appropriations. HB2214 provides a mechanism for reporting to the Department of State Police when a circuit court restores a felon's right to possess, transport, and carry a firearm. Prior to entry of a restoration order, the petitioner's fingerprints and petition are sent to the Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE) and the petitioner's criminal history is forwarded to the court and may be inspected by the attorney for the Commonwealth. If the order is granted, the Department of State Police shall enter the person's name and description in the CCRE so law-enforcement personnel accessing the computerized criminal history records will be aware of the order's existence.

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