Sunday, February 9, 2020

Legislative Update - Ban on Modern Sporting Rifles Reports from House Committee

House Public Safety Committee
Photo by Richmond Times Dispatch
The House Public Safety Committee met Friday to take up bills heard in subcommittee and to hear HB961, Governor Northam's bill to ban modern sporting rifles (referred to by the gun ban lobby as "assault weapons"), ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds as well as firearms that are capable of holding such a magazine, and banning suppressors. As introduced it would have required individuals that own these firearms to register them with the State Police. Last night, VSSA was made aware that a substitute would be introduced that removed the registration part, but the bill still contained language that would require Virginians to either turn over or destroy ammunition magazines that hold over 12 rounds by January 1st, 2021 or become a felon. When you click the link to the bill above, you should scroll down to 18.2-308.9. Importation, sale, transfer, etc., of assault firearms prohibited; penalty. to see the definition of what would constitute an "assault firearm".

After about 30 minutes of testimony and debate (you can see the entire discussion in the video at the end of this newsletter) the committee voted 12-9 on a party line vote to report the bill. At that time, a number of the people in the audience stood up and shouted "We will not comply." The chairman appeared shocked that this was occurring, called a member of the Capitol Police to the dais, and told him to clear the room. It was later learned that the video stream of the committee stopped at this point and did not resume until the room was cleared and the committee was ready to take up the final bill on the agenda without any opportunity for public comment.

As of Tuesday, it was not even clear that this bill would be heard. There are some Democrats in the House that are not comfortable with this even after the amendments. But the Governor wants to go 8 for 8 on his gun control bills and it appears he has forced the House to move the bill and at the same time, put members of the Senate in the position of opposing the Governor, or rejecting the pleas of their constituents on this issue. There are at least four members of the State Senate who are on record as not supporting this policy. The bill has to clear the House by the time the House adjourns on Tuesday as each side can only take up legislation that originated in the other house beginning on Wednesday.

Other bills passed in House Public Safety were:

HB264. The bill as introduced would remove the option of completing the training required to apply for a concealed handgun permit (CHP) through online courses. As amended in committe, it removes the options of completing the training through an NRA Certified instructor and instead only allows training provided by a "state certified" trainer.

HB600 Family day homes; storage of firearms. This bill requires family day homes (in-home childcare etc) to have firearms unloaded and ammunition locked up separately when in operation.

HB1288 Firearms; purchase, possession, etc., following two or more misdemeanor convictions.

HB1499 Virginia Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention Fund; created. (The Senate version of this bill was amended to remove the reference to guns)

In other legislative news for Friday:

SB71 Firearms on school property. Adds public, private, or religious preschools and child day centers that are not operated at the residence of the provider or of any of the children to the list of schools where possessing a firearm on school property or on a school bus is prohibited. Under current law, the list of such schools only includes public, private, or religious elementary, middle, or high schools. Passed the Senate 21-18

SB14 Trigger activators; prohibition; penalty. This bill was engrossed and passed to third reading (final passage). This bill was amended in committee to mirror the federal bump stop regulation.

SB 67 Firearms; reporting those lost or stolen, civil penalty. This bill requires that an individual report a lost or stolen firearm within 24 hours of knowing such has occurred or face a civil penalty of $250. It was read for the first time and passed to second reading.

SB543 Firearms shows; mandatory background check. This bill makes the background check on private sales at guns shows mandatory. Currently it is voluntary. Not sure why this bill is necessary since the "universal" background check passed the senate. This bill was read for the first time today and passed to second reading.

Three are no firearm related bills on Monday's docket in Senate Judiciary.

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