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.

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