RICHMOND—The House of Delegates has passed seven Democratic-sponsored gun safety bills intended to prevent gun violence. The bills address universal background checks, requirements to report lost and stolen firearms, granting localities authority to determine how firearms may be regulated, child access prevention, substantial risk protective orders, restoring a limit on the number of gun purchases a person may make per month, and ensuring persons under a protective order do not possess a firearm.
“Today we answer the majority of Virginians who called for gun violence prevention legislation at the polls last November,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “Our goal is to save lives and promote responsible gun ownership in the Commonwealth. Public safety is our number one concern.”
This series of bills, which were reported by the Public Safety Committee last week, now moves to the Virginia Senate for approval.
In 2019, a blue wave swept Democrats into the majority in the House of Delegates for the first time in 20 years. Gun violence prevention was a core campaign promise for Democrats statewide, proving to be a key issue with the voters. A recent Christopher Newport University poll summary reported that Virginia voters are “firmly in support” of gun safety measures, with 86 percent of Virginia voters favoring universal background checks, and 73 percent behind temporary protective orders removing guns if the legal owner is determined to pose a threat of harm to self or others (nicknamed as a “red flag” law).
“Gun violence prevention is one of the greatest legislative priorities for House Democrats in the 2020 session,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair and patron of HB 674, Rip Sullivan. “We listened closely to voters’ concerns and are taking meaningful action to address the gun violence crisis in Virginia. I’ve worked on this important issue for a long time, and I am thrilled that we have taken this major step forward to fulfill our promise on gun safety reform.”
Summaries of the gun safety legislation which passed today:
- HB 2 enforces universal background checks on gun transfers, eliminating existing loopholes. These background checks exist in 20 states, lowering homicide and suicide rates. 91 percent of Virginians support universal background checks. Delegate Kenneth Plum introduced HB 2.
- HB 9 requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours to law enforcement and penalizes those who fail to do so with a $250 fine. This bill intends to alert law enforcement promptly, to assist with efforts to find a stolen firearm and keep it from entering the criminal market. Too many guns flow out of Virginia into other states and on to their streets, disproportionately affecting communities of color in urban settings. Delegate Jeffrey Bourne is the patron of this bill.
- HB 421 allows localities the authority to regulate the possession, carrying, storage or transport of firearms, ammunition, components, or any combination of those things. It would also authorize localities that choose to create firearm-buyback programs to destroy any surrendered firearms if a written request is made. This legislation was carried by Delegate Cia Price.
- HB 674 intends to grant judges the authority to issue an emergency Substantial Risk Protective Order, prohibiting a person deemed a risk to themselves or others from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm for the duration of the order. These temporary orders would expire after 14 days (though a judge, after a hearing, may then enter a longer-term protective order if one is necessary), allowing the individual time to seek the mental health help they need. Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan served as the patron of this bill.
- HB 812 would reinstate the one-gun-per-month limit on the number of guns an individual may purchase, unless they are a licensed firearms dealer. This law would help law enforcement decrease the number of handguns being redirected to the unregulated market. This bill was introduced by Delegate Jeion Ward.
- HB 1004 would make it a Class 6 felony for someone subject to a protective order to knowingly possess a firearm. The law would give 24 hours for a person covered by a protective order to sell or transfer their gun. Virginia currently does not prevent persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic-violence offenses from purchasing or possessing firearms. When an abuser has access to firearms, the risk of intimate partner homicide increases by 400 percent. Delegate Mike Mullin was the patron of HB 1004.
- HB 1083: Recklessly leaving loaded, unsecured firearms around minors under the age of 18 where individuals are at risk of death or injury would be classified as a Class 6 felony. Preventing young people from accessing firearms protects not only that child or family, but the entire community. Delegate Cliff Hayes introduced this legislation.