Thursday, January 23, 2020

Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee Results

Wednesday's final vote on SB240, the "red flag" bill, in the State Senate was almost foregone conclusion after yesteday's session where the bill was amended and engrossed to a third vote on a party line vote. Nothing really changed today. Much of the ground that was covered in debate today was a rehash of yesterday. Democrats continued to say they added many due process protections and compared what would happen in this legislation to what happens when someone goes to the magistrate to report domestic violence, and that the protections in SB240 are more extensive than what would occur in a domestic violence situation. The bill now moves to the House.  Senator Stuart made an excellent closing argument on the floor that can be found below.


Senate Judiciary had a marathon meeting that started around 4:00 PM and lasted until approximately 7:30 PM. All but one of the good bills that were listed in yesterday's update were defeated. The Northam Administration stated their goal is not punishment but instead preventing acts before they occur. Translated, restricting the rights of law abiding gun owners is viewed as crime prevention instead of locking up violent criminals.

One bill of great importance was SB353, patroned by Senator John Bell (D- Loudoun). As drafted, the bill was targeting all outdoor shooting ranges. VSSA's lobbyist met with the Senator and was told it was a drafting error. When it was finally Senator Bell's turn, a substitute bill was distributed. It was significantly amended and became very clear that the target was not ranges like VSSA's 26 affiliated ranges, or other membership based ranges, but was targeting what the patron called "make shift" ranges on private property. As the patron continued he referenced what he said was the failure of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to deal with several instances that occurred over the past couple of years in Loudoun County. Several members of the committee, including Democrat Chap Peterson, questioned whether this was something better suited for local zoning boards to handle rather than the General Assembly. After about 30 minutes, the Committee decided to pass the bill by for the day.

One interesting note, at least one Democrat member of the committee, Senator Chap Peterson is apparently growing weary of the number of firearm related bills that have been heard by the committee. At one point he asked "Why does everything have to be about guns?"

A summary of the bills and the action taken is below.

SB75 Allowing access to firearms by minors; penalty. Stricken at the request of patron (14-Y 0-N)

SB76 Protective orders; possession of firearms; penalty Stricken at the request of the patron (14-0)

SB614 Prohibition on carrying of certain firearms in public places; County of Albemarle and City of Charlottesville; penalty. Stricken at request of the patron.

SB781 Leaving an unattended handgun in public; penalty - Stricken at the request of the patron.

SB18 Firearms; criminal history record information checks; age requirement; penalty. Provides that a person must be at least 21 years old, or must be at least 18 years old by the effective date of the bill, to purchase a firearm in addition to "universal" background check. - Stricken at request of the patron

SB13 Possessing or transporting a weapon within Capitol Square; penalty. Again, members on both sides were not ready to move forward with the bill as drafted so it was passed by for the day.

SB15 Carrying weapon into building owned or leased by the Commonwealth; penalty This bill was debated, it was passed by for the day due to numerous questions that legislators on both sides had. When Senator Edwards asked the patron if they could take it by for the day Senator Peterson was heard to say "how 'bout for the year".

SB207 Purchase of service handguns or other weapons by retired sworn law-enforcement officers - Reported unanimously

SB476 Risk management plan; coverage for injury or death on public school or college property; concealed handgun prohibition. - Rereferred to General Laws and Technology

SB477 Risk management plan; coverage for injury or death on state property; concealed handgun prohibition. - Rereferred to General Laws and Technology

SB372 Protective orders; possession of firearms; surrender or transfer of firearms; penalty. Incorporated into SB479 (13-Y 1-N)

SB479 Protective orders; possession of firearms; surrender or transfer of firearms; penalty. Reported (10-4) (Senator Norment joined the majority Democrats)

SB509 Local hunting and firearm regulation. Reported from Judiciary 12-0 and rereferred to Senate Agriculture

SB593 Licensed family day homes; storage of firearms - Reported 12-3 and rereffered to Rehabilitation and Social Services

SB82 Violation of protective order; armed with firearm or other deadly weapon; mandatory minimum sentence; penalty. Passed by indefinitely (8-Y 6-N 1-A)

SB83 Brandishing a firearm; law-enforcement officer; penalty. Passed by indefinitely (7-Y 6-N 1-A)

SB84 Concealment of firearm in committing felony; penalty. 01/22/20 Senate: Passed by Indefinately (9-Y 5-N)

SB85 Stolen firearms; penalties. Passed by indefinitely (9-Y 5-N)

SB86 Use or display of firearm in committing felony; penalty. Passed by indefinitely (9-Y 6-N)

SB88 Discharging firearm; penalty. Passed by indefinitely (9-Y 6-N)

SB89 Violation of protective order while armed with firearm or other deadly weapon; mandatory minimum sentence; penalty. Passed by indefinitely (9-Y 6-N)

SB173 Prohibition on possession of stun weapon on school property; exemption for holder of concealed handgun permit. Reported with amendments (13-Y 0-N)

SB248 Virginia Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention Fund. Reported substitute (9-Y 4-N) Rereferred to Finance and Appropriations (Substitute removes all references to guns

SB263 Concealed handgun permits; demonstration of competence. Removes the option for concealed handgun permit applicants to demonstrate competence with a handgun by completing an electronic, video, or online course conducted by a state-certified or National Rifle Association-certified firearms instructor. Reported Judiciary (7-Y 6-N) Democrat Creigh Deeds joined GOP members in opposing the bill

SB319 Security of public property. Passed by indefinitely (9-Y 6-N)

SB353 Outdoor shooting ranges; prohibited adjacent to residential areas; exceptions; civil penalty. This bill was discussed extensively, a substitute was offered that made it clear the bill is not aimed at ranges like the 26 VSSA affiliated ranges but instead at private individuals who have built ranges on their private property. In the end the bill was passed by for the day as committee members believed it still needed more work. Senator Chap Peterson especially seemed to think this was a local matter and not one for the General Assembly.

HB581 Allowing access to firearms by minors; penalty. There was debate on the bill. Senator Chap Peterson was not comfortable with the language nor with the raising of the penalty from a misdemeanor to a Class 6 Felony so the bill went by for the day.

SB928 Possession, purchase, and transport of certain firearms in certain localities. Provides that a person may lawfully possess, purchase, or transport a firearm or firearms magazine that he would otherwise be lawfully permitted to possess, purchase, or transport on January 1, 2020, while he is in a locality that has adopted an ordinance, resolution, or motion that authorizes the possession, purchase, or transportation of such firearm or firearms magazine within such locality. Passed by indefinitely (9-Y 5-N)

SB490 Purchase, possession, or transportation of firearms following conviction for assault and battery of a family or household member; The bill provides for a process by which a person convicted of such crime may petition the circuit court for a reinstatement of his right to possess or transport a firearm and the factors a court shall consider in determining such reinstatement. There was much debate on this bill. The committee heard from the public and then passed the bill by for the day, mainly because it was getting late and there is more work that needs to be done with the bill.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Three Gun Bills Advance to Final Vote, Governor Temporarily Bans Guns on Capitol Grounds and Reduces Points of Access to One for Lobby Day

Today, the Virginia Senate advanced SB 35 (Chipping away at state preemption), SB 69 (Handgun Rationing), and SB70 ("Universal" Background Checks) to a final vote. Expect these to be on the floor calendar for tomorrow. SB240 (Red flag bill) was passed by for the day as there were multiple substitutes to consider. Continue to contact your senators and urge them to oppose all of these bills, even if your senator is anti-rights. They need to hear from gun owners to know we opposed these bills.

For those planning to come to the annual Lobby Day at the Capitol on Monday, Governor Northam announced a temporary state of emergency beginning Friday extending to Tuesday morning, that includes a ban on firearms and other items that could be used as weapons on Capitol Grounds. He has also reduced the number of entrance points to one for Monday. All attendees will be required to enter through the entrance at 9th and Grace Street.

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Photo by Mel Leonor, @MelLeonor RTD Reporter
There will also be multiple road closures:
1) West bound traffic on East Main St. from North 14th St. to North 9th Street. Alternate routes will be Canal Street or the Downtown Expressway.
2)North bound traffic on N. 9th Street from East Cary to E. Broad Street will be closed. Alternate route will be N. 7th Street.
3)East Grace Street between N. 8th St. and N. 9th St. will be closed to all traffic.
4)East Franklin St. between N. 8th St. and N. 9th Street will be closed to all traffic.

Please be aware of these changes and plan accordingly.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Only One Gun Bill on Docket in Senate Judiciary Wednesday Afternoon

The Docket for Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee meeting has been posted and the only firearm related bill is:

Patron: Spruill
Carrying a concealed handgun; consumption of alcohol in a public park; penalty. Prohibits a person who carries a concealed handgun onto the premises of any public park or other public space when alcoholic beverages have been approved for sale or consumption therein from consuming an alcoholic beverage while on the premises. A violation of this provision is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

This language would be added to the code section related to carrying concealed in a restaurant that serves alcohol.


Bill Would Increase Taxes on Guns and Ammo

A bill introduced in the House of Delegates would implement an additional sales tax on all firearm and ammunition purchases. House Bill 960 is awaiting a committee referral. The Sportsmen's Alliance has more:
HB 960 would require all individuals who purchase a firearm or ammunition to pay a new tax in addition to the taxes already incurred by the Pittman-Robertson Act and state sales taxes. The funds from this new tax would be earmarked for a student mental health and safety fund, which would be used to hire full time school counselors, social workers and school psychologists.
Contact your member of the House of Delegates and tell them that the taxes you currently pay on firearms and ammunition provides funding for the selection, restoration and improvement of wildlife habitat, and for wildlife management research. Let them know that you currently pay an 11-percent federal excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition and archery equipment, and a 10-percent tax on handguns and oppose any additional taxes on your constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Legislative Update - Senate Judiciary Advances Gun Control Bills


After an hour delay in starting this morning's committee meeting, caused by the new rules banning firearms in the building, causing staff and members to now go through metal detectors, Democrats wasted no time advancing their gun control agenda.

The following bills were reported out of committee and are headed to the floor.  Many of them were combined versions of multiple bills and we are waiting for the substitution versions to be printed.
The meeting got off to a less than friendly start when it was brought to the attention of State Senator John Edwards that he had assured the committee that no gun bills would be taken up at today's meeting because State Senator Stanley had to be away from the session today.  But when the the agenda came out on Friday, a number of gun related bills were included on the docket.  Senator Mark Obeshain made a motion that all of the gun bills go by for the day, a motion that after some discussion, failed on a party line vote.

Then, even though the bill was not on the docket, Committee Chairman John Edwards announced that State Senator Richard "Dick" Saslaw had requested that his "assault weapon" ban bill SB16, be stricken.  Again their was back and forth about the rules, which indicate that bills not on the docket (which SB16 was not) could not be stricken at this time,  In a second violation of the rules, the bill was stricken. 

The first bills to be taken up were SB22 and SB69, both of which would reinstate handgun rationing.  SB22 was rolled into Senator Mamie Locke's SB69 and that is the bill that advanced on a 9-5 party line vote.  It does include an exception for individuals that hold a valid concealed handgun permit.  SB69 now goes to the floor.  Contact your state senator and urge him or her to oppose the bill.  You can find talking points on why gun rationing fails by clicking here.

Next up was so-called "universal" background checks.  Again, Senator Saslaw had a bill, SB12, and Louise Lucas had SB70.  SB12 was rolled into SB70 and that is the bill that was taken up.  During discussion of the bill, State Senator Chap Peterson said he had concerns about the word "transfer" in the bill.  This word is how similar laws in Washington state have required background checks simply for lending your gun to someone at the range.  While SB70 included exceptions for loaning someone a firearm at the range, Senator Peterson said he was concerned about inclusion of the word, and offered a substitute, that dealt strickly with sales of firearms but it also appears that it removed all of the exceptions in the bill, including for sales to immediate family.  You would be able to give firearm as a gift, but not sell it to your daughter, son, or brother.  We are awaiting the printed copy of the substitute to confirm what it appeared from discussion was the case.  It should also be noted that neither Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran, nor the gun ban lobby, were happy with the substitute.  The bill was reported on a 9-5 vote and heads to the floor.  Contact your Senator and urge him or her to oppose SB70.  You can find talking points on why "universal" background checks don't reduce crime by clicking here.

Next up was Senator Barker's "Red Flag" bill (SB240).  There were a number of line amendments to the bill resulting in a substitute to be passed by the committee.  None of the amendments address the flaws in the bill such as simply requiring "probable cause" for an order to be issued confiscating someone's firearms before the respondent has an opportunity to defend themselves and other flaws in the bill.  VSSA is awaiting a copy of the substitute but none of the amendments change our opposition to the bill.  State Senator Joe Morrissey said he was going to vote to report the bill but had concerns that needed to be addressed.  He told the VSSA legislative team after the meeting that he would not vote for the bill on the floor in it's current form .  VSSA will continue to work with Senator Morrissey to see additional amendments can be added to address the 13 items that have been identified to make the bill constitutional.  Contact your Senator now and urge them to oppose the SB240. 

Finally, SB35 and SB450, both dealing with local control of firarms, specifically related to allowing them in the chambers of local governing bodies and permitted events.  The Democrats said they are simply letting the local governments determine if they want firearms in their board and council meetings and at events requiring a permit.  Like the other bills, SB35 advanced to the floor.  Contact your Senator and urge them to oppose SB35.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Shooting Ranges, Gun Shops, Clubs Sponsoring Buses to Richmond January 20th

Some shooting range, gun shops, and clubs have set up buses to Richmond for the Annual Lobby Day on January 20th. While a number of gun bills may have already been heard by then, they would still have to be taken up in the other house of the legislature (i.e. Senate bills taken up in the House and vice versa) before they go to Governor Northam. If we don't stop them in one house we may stop them in the other. So, it is critical that a large number of gun owners show up in Richmond , talk with your legislators, and let their voice be heard on both January 13th, the day NRA has designated, and on January 20th. Below is a list of buses we are aware of that will travel to Richmond on January 20th if you want to avoid parking issues.  If you are driving, please be aware that entry into the Pocahantas building will be difficult with only one access point so please arrive early if you want to speak with your legislators.

Charlottesville: Rivanna Rifle & Pistol Club has organized two buses to leave Charlottesville at 6:00 am to arrive in Richmond by 8:00 am and will leave Richmond at 2:00 pm to return to Charlottesville. Cost is $30 per seat to cover expense of buses. Contact Timothy Rogers at trogers307@hotmail.com to reserve a seat.

Culpeper/Warrenton: Bus by Rivenoak Armoury LLC.  Contact rivenoak.armoury@gmail.com for details.

Draper (Pulaski County): New River Sports is chartering a bus that leaves 3376 Kirby Rd (Frontage Rd) Draper, VA at 3:30 AM. Cost is $50/rider. Contact nrsportsva@gmail.com or 540-980-1133.

Lynchburg: SafeSide Tactical has a bus that starts in Roanoke. All riders get a free “shall not be infringed” T-shirt and over $150 in coupons from area retailers.  Lynchburg Bus - $35 leaves SafeSide Lynchburg at 5:00 am https://www.safesidetactical.com/rangemanagement/classdetail.cfm?class_id=2297

Manassas: Fairfax County Rod and Gun Club is planning two buses from Manassas for club members. If you are a member, contact the club.

Patrick County: The Patrick County GOP has a bus from Stuart, Virginia leaving at 3:30 am and returning around 9:30 PM. Tickets are $50 per person and may be purchased from Eventbrite at the following link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/patrick-co-gop-bus-to-richmond-for-lobby-day-2a-tickets-86869353575?ref=eios

Roanoke: SafeSide Tactical has a bus. All riders get a free “shall not be infringed” T-shirt (graphics coming soon) and over $150 in coupons from area retailers. - Roanoke bus - $35 leaves SafeSide Roanoke @ 4:30am https://www.safesidetactical.com/rangemanagement/classdetail.cfm?class_id=2295

Shenandoah County: The Shenandoah County GOP has two buses coming. They leave from Woodstock at 6:30 AM. They plan to be in Richmond by 9:00 AM and riders will meet with Delegate Todd Gilbert. Contact Dianne Wyss for more information at info@shencogop.org.

Winchester: CK3 Guns in Stephens City will be sponsoring a bus. Departing Winchester and making a stop in Front Royal. Tickets are $35/seat. For details contact Chuck Klingenberg at ck3guns@gmail.com.

Senate Bill Targets Outdoor Shooting Ranges

On January 6th, State Senator John Bell prefiled SB353, a bill that would prohibit the operation of an outdoor shooting range, defined in the bill, within 500 yards of any property zoned for residential use, with one exception, the range must have used the "Range Design Criteria" developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Health, Safety and Security.  VSSA has a number of affiliated ranges and it is possible that some of these have used the above criteria when they were constructed, but this bill would also prevent individual land owners from constructing a range on their property for private use unless it complies with the above criteria.  An individual in violation of the law were it to pass would be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $1,000 nor more than $100,000 for the initial violation and $5,000 per day for each day of violation thereafter.

Gun owners need to be contacting their legislators as bills continue to be filed.  Emails are fine should be short (no long missives) but phone calls are better.  Be polite, and focused in your message.

The Democrats have renamed the Senate Courts of Justice Committee to Senate Judiciary.  The Committee members are:

Edwards  (Chair), Saslaw, Norment, Lucas, Obenshain, McDougle, Stuart, Stanley, Chafin, Deeds, Petersen, Surovell, McClellan, Boysko, Morrissey

The Democrats on the committee that are most likely to be receptive to gun owner interests are Senator Edwards (the Chair of the committee), as well as Senators Deeds and Petersen.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Gun Bills Likely to Move in 1st Full Week of General Assembly

VSSA's lobbyist is getting indications that Northam's gun control bills will move the first full week of the legislature.  That's the week of January 13th.  This likely explains NRA-ILA's focus on the first meeting of Senate Courts of Justice on January 13 and why gun owners need to be contacting their
Graphic by NRA-ILA
delegate and senator now.  You can send an email but a phone call to their Capitol Office phone would be even better.  If you are going to be in Richmond, schedule an appointment to meet with them but arrive early for your meeting because access to the Pocahontas Building is not easy and if there are large numbers of people attempting to enter it can take a while as there is only one access point.

Additionally, special focus should be given to Senator John Edwards, who is the incoming chairman of Senate Courts of Justice and until recently was an ally of gun owners.  Senator Edwards needs to hear especially from gun owners in his district (Roanoke, Montgomery, and Giles).  Roanoke Rifle and Revolver club is in his district so members of the club need to contact Senator Edwards by email and by phone and urge him to oppose any bills that restricts the rights of law abiding gun owners and especially SB16, which would ban many of the guns that used at RRRC for competition and target shooting.  Members of RRRC that have youth that shoot in competitive programs need to have those young shooters contact Senator Edwards and let him know that they would be negatively affected by SB16 and that they don't want their competition firearms banned.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Bearingarms.com: GOP, 2A Groups Reject Virginia “Red Flag” Proposal

In Friday's eBullet, VSSA shared the article about SB 240 - Senator Barker's "Substantial Risk" or "red flag" bill, from Bearingarms.com.  A follow-up article was posted on Saturday that shared comments from Delegate Todd Gilbert and from VSSA.   From Delegate Gilbert:
“Our concern with this bill and others like it is that these bills go too far, and open the door for abuse that would not only endanger citizens but also law enforcement. There is room to tweak our existing, proven system of dealing with those who may be a threat to themselves or others while preserving due process, but this bill comes up short.”
And comment from VSSA:
“As with other laws of this type, it does nothing for those ruled to be a risk to no longer be a risk other than taking the firearms. It takes guns prior to a hearing to determine if the individual is a risk, and it gives immunity to law enforcement if someone’s firearms are damaged or stolen while in law enforcement custody. It has none of the constitutional protections that for instance, Dave Kopel, recommends for the law to be constitutional.”

I did not go into detail in my comment on those protections but I will list them here. In testimony before congress last spring, Independence Institute Research Director Dave Kopel listed the following constitutional protections that should be part of any "Extreme Risk Protection" or red flag laws:
  • Petitions initiated by law enforcement, not by spurned dating partners or relationships from long ago.
  • Ex parte hearings only when there is proof of necessity.
  • Proof by clear and convincing evidence, which has been corroborated.
  • Guarantees of all due process rights, including cross-examination and right to counsel.
  • Court-appointed counsel if the respondent so wishes.
  • A civil remedy for victims of false and malicious petitions.
  • Safe and orderly procedures for relinquishment of firearms.
  • Strict controls on no-knock raids.
  • Storage of relinquished firearms by responsible third parties.
  • Prompt restoration of concealed carry permits for the falsely accused.
  • Prompt return of firearms upon the termination of an order.
  • Renewal of orders based on presentation of clear and convincing proof.
  • Not allowing time-limited orders to be bootstrapped into lifetime federal prohibition.
When you read SB 240, it does include allowing firearms to be stored by third parties.  Also, only law enforcement can go to a judge to request such an order as Kopel mentions in his list, but the bill only requires that a judge determine there is “probable cause” that someone poses a “substantial risk” to themselves or others, not the "clear and convincing evidence" that Kopel listed.  Probable cause is a very low legal bar.  SB 240 is more about confiscating firearms that providing assistance to those in crisis or public safety.

Will GOP Help Pass Some Gun Control?

State Senator Tommy Norment seems to think so.  He believes that so called "universal" background checks and so called "red flag" laws will be two likely candidates.  From Cam Edwards at Bearingarms.com:
He made the statement at the annual Kaufman & Canoles Business Leaders Forum at the Princess Anne Country Club in Virginia Beach. During the luncheon, Norment and Virginia Beach Del. Barry Knight (R-81st District) talked about some legislation Virginia can expect to see.

Norment’s official position as co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee makes him the man at the tip of the spear for all things budget-related. His position as Senate majority leader has changed as Democrats take control of the Senate.

Norment said it’s clear recent gatherings at local government meetings supporting gun rights are making a statement. There’s no legal impact, but the protests are expressions of pro-gun values.

“Universal background checks, I predict, is coming out no matter what the governor has said. It is going to happen because there is majority of Republicans and Democrats who will pass it,” he said.
Cam mentioned that he has heard that some legislators in suburban districts seem to think that the uprising of gun owners is tied to SB 16.  I agree with Cam that these legislators need to reconsider that position because SB 16 is only one of the bad bills.  Make sure you are contacting your legislators and let them know your position on all of the bills that would restrict your rights.