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Friday, February 23, 2018

We Are Under Attack

The number of companies that had partnered with the NRA to offer benefits to its members and are now ending their agreements continues to grow.  First it was the bank that handled the NRA Credit Card - First National of Omaha.  Then it was Enterprise, National, Alamo and Hertz rental car, and now Met Life.  This action is prompted by the efforts of the left-wing group Think Progress started a campaign to get companies to end their relationships with the NRA.

Gun owners need to make their voices heard.  We need to be just as active telling these companies that we will take our business to companies that support our rights.  They need to know they stand to lose more money from us than they stand to gain by ending their arrangements with the NRA.  Now is the time to make our voices heard.  Make them pay a price for their actions.

Legislative Update for February 23rd

We are a little over halfway through the 2018 General Assembly. At crossover, over 60 anti-gun bills had been defeated. These bills included mandatory so-called “universal” background checks, a bump stock ban, handgun rationing (one gun-a-month), bans on commonly owned semi-automatic firearms and standard capacity magazines, mandates on reporting lost or stolen firearms that put the burden on law-abiding gun owners and not the criminal, and bills that would have chipped away at state-wide firearm law pre-emption, among many others.

Some of the worst bills that were defeated this session are listed below:
Senate Bill 5 /Senate Bill 145 /Senate Bill 412 /Senate Bill 432 /Senate Bill 447 - Required a background check for any firearm transfer and requires the Department of State Police to establish a process for transferors to obtain such a check from licensed firearms dealers. A transferor who fails to obtain a required background check and sells the firearm to another person is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

House Bill 41 /Senate Bill 1 would have made it a crime to knowingly possess a “trigger activator” that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semi-automatic firearm. The broad provisions in these bills could potentially criminalize firearm modifications such as competition triggers, and ergonomic changes that are commonly done by law-abiding gun owners to make their firearms more suitable for self-defense, competition, hunting, or even overcoming disability.

Senate Bill 385 /House Bill 353 /House Bill 650 - Would have prohibited 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. Law-abiding individuals who can legally purchase a firearm should not be arbitrarily banned from exercising their Second Amendment rights for any amount of time.

House Bill 927/ Senate Bill 794 - Would have prohibited any person from importing, selling, bartering, or transferring a firearms magazine designed to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. A violation is a Class 6 felony. The bills prohibited a person from carrying semi-automatic center-fire firearms with more than 10 rounds of ammunition in a public place; under existing law, this prohibition applies only in certain localities and only to such firearms if the firearm holds more than 20 rounds of ammunition. The bills also increaseed from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony the penalty for carrying a semi-automatic center-fire firearm and 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. The bills redefined "assault firearm" by reducing from more than 20 to more than 10 the number of rounds of ammunition that a firearms magazine will hold in order to be defined as an "assault firearm" and prohibits a dealer from selling, renting, trading, or transferring from his inventory such an assault firearm to any person. Also, the bills reduced from more than 20 to more than 10 the number of rounds of ammunition that a firearms magazine will hold in order to be defined as an "assault firearm" for purposes of possession or transportation by a person younger than 18 years of age. In addition, the bills increases the penalty from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony for a person younger than 18 years of age to possess or transport a handgun, an "assault firearm", or a shotgun with a magazine that will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered, with some exceptions.

Senate Bill 119 /Senate Bill 228 /Senate Bill 443 - These bills required a person who lawfully possesses a firearm to report the loss or theft of the firearm to any local law-enforcement agency or the Department of State Police within 24 hours after such person discovers the loss or theft or is informed by a person with personal knowledge of the loss or theft. The bills required the relevant law-enforcement agency to enter the report information into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). A violation would have been punishable by a civil penalty of $50 for a first offense and not less than $100 or more than $250 for any subsequent offense.

Pro-Gun Legislation

Among the pro-gun bills that survived and are moving through the House of Delegates are Senate Bill 372, sponsored by Senator Ben Chafin. SB 372 repeals the statutory prohibition on carrying a gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger, or other dangerous weapon, without good and sufficient reason, to a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held at such place.  Also, Senate Bill 715, sponsored by Senator Amanda Chase would allow any firefighter or person employed as emergency medical services personnel to carry a concealed handgun while engaged in the performance of his official duties, provided that such firefighter or person employed as emergency medical services personnel has been approved to carry a concealed handgun by his fire chief or emergency medical services chief.

Unfortunately, there were a number of pro-gun bills that failed to advance.  Those bills included legislation that would have provided a sales tax exemption for gun safes under $1000, constitutional carry legislation, and a bill prohibiting the sharing of information regarding Virginia concealed handgun permits law enforcement in states that do not recognize a Virginia concealed handgun permit as valid in the state.

The good news is that all of the bad bills died before crossover.  The bad news is there are virtually no opportunities to expand our rights this session.

Given that we almost had a flip of the House of Delegates from pro-rights to anti-rights, it could have been a lot worse.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Reason Magazine Gun Ban Scenario is Very Plausible

Sebastian over at the blog Shall Not Be Questioned has a post on a Reason.com article that looks back a few years after hypothetical new restrictions on semiautomatic weapons have been enacted.  It is an article that includes some well placed links to articles that help support the thesis laid out.  The article's point is that even after the ban, the country is even more divided but no less armed.  I agree with Sebastian that it is a very plausible scenario.

Let's look at some of the scenario. The author starts out by point out that after years of failure at the legislative approach (with some exceptions in places like California and New Jersey), the strategy chosen by the gun ban lobby was to shift the a campaign of making gun ownership socially unacceptable, similar to what was done with tobacco in the 90's. Then, the author suggests, legal changes would be possible.  He links to an article from yesterday's Market Watch to show this is already under consideration.

But unlike the 90's when there was no alternative to the anti-tobacco messages in the media, today, such anti-gun messages played only to those pre-disposed to agreeing with them:
That's "sort of" because, while anti-gun messages were a big hit with some media platforms, they were immediately countered by vigorous counter-efforts through opposing channels by pro-gun groups. That was something that never happened during the battles over tobacco. American culture—and media, with it--was far more fragmented than it had been in the days of unchallenged anti-smoking ads.

So the anti-gun message found an audience among those who were already predisposed to listen. These were people whose politics were generally left of center, and who followed media outlets to match. The result was declining gun ownership among those who were already wary of the practice. Before the anti-gun campaign, researchers found that "44% of Republicans and independents who lean to the Republican Party say they own a gun, only 20% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the same," but now the number of left-leaning gun owners started to fall even further.
But, and here is the cautionary note because we are seeing it playout in the aftermath of the Florida school shooting with the President's directive on "bump stocks" and even offering to consider raising the age to legally purchase semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, the cultural onslaught (like what we are seeing with the Florida students demanding something be done), assisted by the a fumbling bunch of Republicans, had enough impact to flip congress and the White House, and with it, major changes—including on gun control.  The article points out that millions refused to comply with the new bans, again, linking back to articles about how only a small number of people complied with real confiscation and registration schemes in places like Connecticut.

The article goes on to describe the specific changes and how the gun issue became more partisan issue than ever.  It is a good and very believable read and I highly recommend the article.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Alexanderia Democrat Attacks Law-abiding Gun Owners - Delegate Gilbert Responds

Earlier today, Alexandria Democrat Delegate Mark Levine attacked law-abiding gun owners in a newsletter that says Republican polices are aligned with mass murder, terrorists, Al Qaeda and Nazis. House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert responded an a statement released to the press:
"We were incredibly disappointed by Delegate Levine's email. There was no subtlety or attempt at implication; this was a direct and overt personal attack on those who believe in the rights of law abiding citizens to own a gun, and an insult to those who support rational and reasonable political discourse.

"The violent act that occurred in Florida at the hands of a deranged individual is heartbreaking and infuriating to us all. I know Delegate Levine would be the first to criticize my desire to keep the victims and their families in my prayers, but I do so nonetheless. Many of us are willing to be part of a sensible discussion on violence and mental health in our communities and schools, but this email is not a productive contribution to the dialogue.
In the days following the school shooting in Florida, the gun ban lobby has trotted out their same old tired list of gun control that would not have prevented the tragedy last week.  In fact, we have learned that the FBI dropped the ball when it came to warnings about the behavior of the accused prior to the shooting.  Delegate Levine's attempt to imply that supporting the Second Amendment rights of Virginia's gun owners amounts to supporting terrorists and Nazis is unbecoming of a Virginia legislator and shows just how low progressives will sink to make a political point.

Washington Post: More Respondents to Poll Blame Problems Identifying, Addressing Mental Health Issues for Mass Shootings Than Say Inadequate Gun Laws

You can find the article here.  Here is the key point:
In the poll conducted after a gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school last week, more than three-quarters, 77 percent, said they think more effective mental health screening and treatment could have prevented the shooting.

The Post-ABC poll also finds that 58 percent of adults say stricter gun control laws could have prevented the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but there is no rise in support for banning assault weapons compared with two years ago and the partisan divide on this policy is as stark as ever. On the issue of whether allowing teachers to carry guns could have deterred the rampage, a proposal Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said is an option for schools, 42 percent said they agreed.
Yes, that is over a majority that site gun control as a preventative measure but it's over 2/3 that cite deficiencies in the nation's mental health system.

National Review's Jim Geraghty did a deeper dive into the poll this morning in his Morning Jolt:
Let’s start off the week with some surprising poll numbers. For starters, despite a near-unanimous tone of media coverage praising the old Assault Weapons Ban and pointing to it as the solution to mass shootings, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds Americans are about evenly split on the idea.

But Americans are roughly split on this proposal, with 50 percent in support and 46 percent opposed, a stark contrast from the 80 percent support for the ban in 1994, the year it was enacted. The current level of support is little different from 51 percent in 2016.

Also. . .

A slight 51 percent majority of parents with children under 18 who live at home say the Florida shooting could have been prevented if teachers were able to carry firearms, compared with 38 percent of Americans without young children. There is a smaller parental divide in support for banning assault weapons, a policy backed by 46 percent of parents and 51 percent of non-parents.
Geraghty also goes on to discuss the larger majority of people who believe failures in the mental health system have more to do with the rash of mass shootings than the nation's gun laws.

Last week's shooting was also the topic of the Sunday news talk shows.  The Post had this compilation.
Looks like after a pretty good record on the issue as Ohio's Governor, John Kasich has reverted back to his former support for banning semi-automatic firearms.  These poll numbers however probably won't help the gun ban lobby, which has worked hard with many in the media (with one notable exception) to push the narrative that last week's attack was the 18th school shooting this year.  It was the Washington Post that said that claim is "Flat Wrong."

Monday, February 12, 2018

House Bill Giving Churches Flexibility on Carry Decisions Dies in House Friday

On Friday, HB1180, a bill that repeals the statutory prohibition on carrying a gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger, or other dangerous weapon, without "good and sufficient reason" to a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes, was referred to the Committee on Courts of Justice from the full House, essentially killing the bill in the House as all committees had to complete their work ahead of today's Crossover.  The patron of the bill, Delegate Dave LaRock, made the motion at the beginning of Friday's session.  No explanation was given at the time of the motion.  An identical bill has already passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the House.

As was mentioned in Friday's morning's Legislative Update, all this bill does is frees churches to make their own decisions on security 24 hours a day, while current law limits options during a service. As was also mentioned on Friday, Democrats are likely going to try and reverse former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's opinion that self-defense is a "good and sufficient reason" to carry in a church during a regularly scheduled service.  This can be done by simply requesting a new opinion from the new Attorney General, Mark Herring.

The Senate bill is still alive, though Governor Northam has stated that he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Annual Christopher Newport University Poll Continues to Push Gun Control

The Christopher Newport University Wason Center for Public Policy released it's annual poll of issues being considered at the General Assembly earlier this week.  While the narrative in the poll is the public overwhelmingly supports gun control, when you dig into the poll, you see that the actual questions asked do not offer a detailed explanation of the issues polled and are simplistic at best.

For instance, while the Wason Center says 84 percent of respondents "support background checks for private gun sales" including "even 76 percent of Republican respondents", the actual question asked was:
  • Q16: There are several bills before the General Assembly related to guns and gun safety. As I describe each one, please tell me if you support or oppose it.
  • A. Making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks:
Absolutely no explanation of what proposals on private gun sales means.  And, the vast majority of sales at gun shows already undergo a background check.  The way this question is asked, it gives the impression to those less informed,  no such checks are performed at gun shows.  Regarding private sales, it is very likely the numbers would have been lower had the poll explained that proposals, and laws in other states related to private sales, don't cover just sales, but "transfers."  A "transfer" includes you loaning a firearm to a spouse or boy/girlfriend,  training class attendee, or a friend at the range. While those pushing such changes in Virginia law learned from the experience in other states and included specific allowances for immediate family or loaning for hunting or target shooting, they still require a background check to be performed on family members beyond immediate family, lifelong friends, and members of your local gun club.

Here's the wording for the so-called "assault weapons" questions.
  • B. A ban on assault-style weapons:
And finally, on the issue of "Constitutional Carry":
  • C. Allow anyone who legally owns a gun to conceal carry without a permit:
Again, no explanation that so-called "assault-style weapons" are simply semi-automatic firearms that shoot no differently than the common hunting rifle or offering additional information like "Vermont currently allows law-abiding gun owners to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, would you support such a policy in Virginia".

Unfortunately, Americans are uninformed on many issues.  Polls with such simplistic questions play right in to that ignorance.  A more reliable poll would take the time to explain the issues being polled.

Legislative Update for February 9th

As we approach the February 13th Crossover Day (the last day to consider legislation in the House of origin) all but a handful of firearm related bills have been heard in committee.  The good news is of those bills heard, all of the bad bills have been defeated.  The bad news is a number of the good bills have died, or been softly killed by carrying them over to next year.  It is rare that a bill carried over survives to actually see the light of day in the following session.  This week, Senate Finance carried over SB48, the Constitutional Carry bill, and SB350, a bill that would extend the expiration date for Concealed Handgun Permits (CHPs) from 5 to 15 years.  The thing is, both were essentially killed because of a supposed "fiscal impact", yet the fees charged for CHPs are only supposed to cover the costs of processing so if you a) no longer need a permit to carry concealed as with Constitutional Carry or b) only have to process once every 15 years instead of 5 years, there is no fiscal impact.

On the positive side, Senate Finance did report to the full Senate SB715, a bill that would allow firefighters and EMTs to carry concealed on the job.  That bill will be on final approval in the Senate next week.

In the House, HB1180, a bill that repeals the statutory prohibition on carrying a gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger, or other dangerous weapon, without "good and sufficient reason" to a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes, continues to be passed by for the day.  This is usually a sign that there is a problem, which does not make a lot of sense because the Senate has already passed it's version of the bill, albeit along party lines.  All this bill does is frees churches to make their own decisions on security 24 hours a day, while current law limits options during a service. Word is, Democrats intend to reverse former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's opinion that self-defense is a "good and sufficient reason" to carry in a church during a regularly scheduled service.  Please contact your Delegate today and urge them to vote for HB1180.  Be sure to explain that this bill does not force churches to allow carry, it only frees them up to make those decisions on their own based on their security needs.

Finally, the small number of bad bills that still remain alive are in House Courts of Justice.  Those bills have not come up for a hearing to date.  The list of bills remaining are below:
  • HB 43 Firearms; reporting when lost or stolen.
  • HB 198 Firearms; removal from persons posing substantial risk, penalties.
  • HB 707 Firearms; allowing access to children, penalty.
  • HB 1327 Pneumatic guns; Class 6 felony to possess on school property, etc.
  • HB 1385 Concealed handguns; disqualifications for permit, adjudications of delinquency.
  • HB 1544 Firearms; possession, etc., following convictions for certain misdemeanor crimes, penalty.
There is a good bill that is also awaiting action in House Courts of Justice:
  • HB 408 Right to keep & bear arms; codifies opinion of Supreme Court of the U.S. in D.C. v. Heller.
VSSA will continue to let members know if your action is needed on any of the above bills.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Legislative Update - Good Week for Virginia Gun Owners

It was a good week for Virginia gun owners in the General Assembly this week as more of Governor Northam's gun ban agenda was defeated in Senate and House of Delegate committees.  First on Wednesday, Senate Finance dispensed with a bill that would ban bump stocks (SB1), and a bill that would add private and public preschools and day care centers as places where firearms are banned (SB79).  In the House of Delegates, the Militia, Police, and Public Safety Committee Subcommittee #1 met for three hours last night and disposed of a long list of bad bills as well as advancing three good bills.  First, the good bills that advanced:
  • HB681 Nonresident concealed handgun permits; time of issuance. Requires the Department of State Police (Department) to issue a concealed handgun permit to a nonresident within 45 days of receipt of the nonresident's completed application unless it determines that he is disqualified. Reported and referred to Appropriations
  • HB1255 Concealed handgun permits. Allows any person who is otherwise eligible to obtain a concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed handgun without a permit anywhere he may lawfully carry a handgun openly within the Commonwealth. (Constitutional Carry) Reported and referred to Appropriations 
  • HB1398  Application for a concealed handgun permit. Allows a Virginia resident or domiciliary to submit an application for a new concealed handgun permit via mail. Currently, only persons who have previously been issued a concealed handgun permit may submit an application via mail. Reported and referred to Appropriation.
The bad bills that were defeated are below:
  • HB68 Firearms; libraries owned or operated by localities.
  • HB261 Localities; regulation of firearms in government buildings.
  • HB597 Firearms; mechanical devices designed to increase the rate of fire, penalty.
  • HB648 Transfer of multiple firearms; report to the Department of State Police. (requires dealer who sells more than two firearms to one individual to notify the state police)
  • HB649 Firearms, certain; prohibited public carrying, penalty.
  • HB814 Firearms; control by localities, lawful demonstrations and protests.
  • HB819 Firearms; prohibits mechanical devices designed to increase rate of fire, penalty.
  • HB929 Licensed family day homes; storage of firearms.
  • HB949 Firearms; transfer, criminal history record check delay.
  • HB950 Firearm or pneumatic gun; allowing access by children age four or younger, penalty.
  • HB1009 Firearms, certain; prohibited public carrying, penalty.
  • HB1019 Firearms, etc.; permitted events.
  • HB1052 Firearms; control by localities, lawful demonstrations and protests.
  • HB1394 Firearms show; list of vendors or exhibitors submitted to State Police.
It should be noted that the subcommittee failed to recommend reporting one bill that VSSA remained neutral because it continues something that the General Assembly has regularly done in the past - set up a separate class of gun owners (in this case retired-law enforcement) that is able to exercise rights that all of us should be able to exercise.

  • HB1443 Concealed handguns; retired law-enforcement officers may carry without a permit, etc.
When the Session began, there was a huge question what such a small pro-rights majority and the loss of so many good Second Amendment supporting legislators would mean for gun owners.  Would some of the remaining members be open to supporting things like banning common firearm accessories like bump stocks?  The results of the first half of the session have been positive in that all of the bad bills that have come before committees to date have been defeated.  A small number of pro-rights bills still remain alive and the VSSA Legislative Team will continue to work for passage of those bills.

UPDATE: HB 1180, a bill that would repeal the prohibition the  "good and sufficient reason" to carry during a church service, was reported by the full Militia, Police, and Public Safety Committee this morning by a 12 to 9 vote! (The Senate version, SB 372, has already passed the Senate and awaits action in the House - the Governor has vowed to veto it if it reaches his desk). HB 1180 now heads to the full House for a vote, likely Tuesday or Wednesday. Please contact your Delegate now and urge him or her to vote to pass HB1180!

Also in the House today, HB172 which would exempt gun safes under $1000 from state sales tax died in House Finance Subcommittee #3 on 5-3 vote to Pass by Indefinitely.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Gun Bills on House Subcommittee Docket This Afternoon

The Militia, Police, and Public Safety Committee Subcommittee #1 will meet today at 4:00 PM.  There are 19 firearm related bills on the docket and the subcommittee has blocked them so that similar bills will be taken up together.  The list of bills is below.  There are a small number of bills that are pro-rights and they are noted in the list.  The last bill in Block 5 is not opposed by VSSA but it continues to set up a special class of gun owners to exercise rights that the rest of us cannot.  Updates will be posted via Twitter and Facebook as they occur during the meeting.

Block 1
HB68 Firearms; libraries owned or operated by localities.
HB261 Localities; regulation of firearms in government buildings.

Block 2
HB597 Firearms; mechanical devices designed to increase the rate of fire, penalty.
HB819 Firearms; prohibits mechanical devices designed to increase rate of fire, penalty.

Block 3
HB649 Firearms, certain; prohibited public carrying, penalty.
HB1009 Firearms, certain; prohibited public carrying, penalty.

Block 4
HB814 Firearms; control by localities, lawful demonstrations and protests.
HB1019 Firearms, etc.; permitted events.
HB1052 Firearms; control by localities, lawful demonstrations and protests.

Block 5
HB603 Concealed handgun permits, nonresident; fee. (increases fee from $100 to $150)
HB648 Transfer of multiple firearms; report to the Department of State Police. (requires dealer who sells more than two firearms to one individual to notify the state police)
HB681 Nonresident concealed handgun permits; time of issuance. (this is a good bill)
HB929 Licensed family day homes; storage of firearms.
HB949 Firearms; transfer, criminal history record check delay.
HB950 Firearm or pneumatic gun; allowing access by children age four or younger, penalty.
HB1255 Concealed handgun; eligibility to carry openly within Commonwealth. (Constitutional Carry - good bill)
HB1394 Firearms show; list of vendors or exhibitors submitted to State Police.
HB1398 Concealed handgun permit; new application via mail. (this is a good bill)
HB1443 Concealed handguns; retired law-enforcement officers may carry without a permit, etc.