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Friday, February 23, 2018

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.

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