RICHMOND, Va.—Five new Democratic gun-violence-prevention measures from the 2021 Regular and Special Legislative Sessions are going into effect on July 1.
“Over the past 18 months Virginia has become a national leader on enacting common-sense gun safety legislation,” Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said. “I am so incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made to curb gun violence here in our Commonwealth and keep Virginia families safe.”
Among other reforms, the legislation will allow school boards to ban guns from school board property, restrict domestic abusers from purchasing firearms, extend the time period for FBI background checks on gun sales in Virginia, and bar guns in Capitol Square and state government buildings.
“In the last year and a half, Democrats have shown how powerful the majority can be, as we have successfully implemented sweeping reforms promoting responsible gun ownership,” House Democratic Majority Leader Charniele Herring said. “These measures are about common-sense gun safety, to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and away from at-risk individuals with the intent to harm either themselves or others. We are building a Virginia that is a better place for families to live, no matter where you live.”
These new laws follow the landmark gun safety legislation passed during the 2020 Regular Legislative Session, which mandated universal background checks for sales of firearms, required that lost and stolen firearms be reported, strengthened penalties for allowing a child access to loaded firearms, established substantial risk protective orders, and prohibited persons subject to protective orders from possessing firearms.
In the 2019 election, gun safety reform was a core campaign promise for Democrats statewide and proved to be a key issue with voters, who put House Democrats in the majority for the first time in 20 years. A Christopher Newport University poll reported that Virginia voters are “firmly in support” of gun safety measures.
“Two years ago, 2.9 million Virginia voters rejected the status quo and made clear that they wanted a legislature that would address gun violence prevention,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan said. “The House Democrats fought for the values of millions of Virginians who wanted a safer Commonwealth. Those voters put Democrats in the majority and we have worked hard to deliver results.”
The following measures go into effect on July 1, 2021, unless noted otherwise:
- HB 1909 gives school boards the authority to set their own policies when it comes to allowing guns inside buildings regularly operated by the board. If a school board decides to prohibit weapons, the prohibition does not apply to law enforcement. Delegate Suhas Subramanyam served as the patron for this bill.
- HB 1992 prohibits a person convicted of misdemeanor assault and battery of a family or household member from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm for three years following their conviction. A person who violates this provision is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. When an abuser has access to firearms, the risk of intimate partner homicide is 5 times more likely when the victim is female. Black women are twice as likely as white women to be killed by a gun, and Black women between the ages of 18 and 34 are three times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than their white counterparts. Everytown for Gun Safety estimates that 62 percent of intimate partner homicides in Virginia are carried out with a gun. Delegate Kathleen Murphy sponsored this legislation.
- HB 2081 bans people from possessing guns within 40 feet of polling places on an election day. This applies while the polls are open and ballots are being counted, or within one hour of opening or after closing the polling place. The same ban applies to any building where a local electoral board meets after an election to ascertain results. HB 2081 was carried by Delegate Mark Levine.
- HB 2128 expands the window the FBI has to conduct background checks for gun sales from three days to five business days before allowing a firearms dealer to proceed with a gun sale in Virginia. Under federal law, the FBI has three days to conduct a background check. If it is not completed in time, or if the authorities indicate that they don’t believe the background check can be completed within the time limit, dealers are allowed to sell the firearm without FBI approval, known as a “default proceed,” unless local laws prohibit the sale. “Default proceed” is also known as the “Charleston Loophole.” Nine other states — including Tennessee and Utah — have enacted laws extending the time period for background checks on gun sales, and Virginia now joins that list. Delegate Alfonso Lopez served as the patron for HB 2128.
- HB 2295 bans guns and explosive materials in Capitol Square and state government buildings. Notice of these prohibitions must be posted around the boundary of Capital Square and at each public entrance to buildings covered by the new law. Any firearms or explosives carried in violation of this law are subject to seizure and forfeiture to the Commonwealth. Delegate Levine also patroned this legislation.