Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a slate of anti-gun bills last week, finalizing an array of measures pushed by gun control lobbyists and Democratic legislators.
Northam had vowed when Democrats took control of the state legislature in 2019 to sign any gun control bills that came across his desk, and he made good on his promise.
“This is an exciting day for me,” Northam said on a conference call with gun-control advocates.
Most of the bills the governor signed will take effect July 1, 2020:
- Universal Background Checks on bonafide private sales of firearms
- Red flag law (“extreme risk protection order” law) with some additional protections
- One handgun a month for those without a concealed handgun permit
- Reporting lost or stolen firearms within 48 hours
- Increase in penalty for someone under 14 years old getting reckless access to a firearm (becomes a class 1 misdemeanor)
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Anti-gun activists hope that their successful efforts in Virginia can be a blueprint for other states.
John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said on Friday that his group plans to replicate their heavy spending in states like Arizona, North Carolina and Pennsylvania to elect anti-gun legislators. Virginia is a “bellweather,” according to Feinblatt, and he believes his gun control agenda will be popular with voters in those states.
Virginia’s most prominent pro-2A group, the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), plans to challenge many of the new laws in court.
In an email to supporters, VCDL President Phillip Van Cleave also noted that the efforts of pro-2A activists helped modify—and in one case stop—several gun control measures.
“Have no doubt… VCDL’s Lobby Day, Second Amendment Sanctuaries, and your calls, emails, and letters absolutely had an effect in dulling the sword of tyranny,” Van Cleave said.
While most gun control measures passed on party-line votes, several moderate senate Democrats balked at passing an assault weapons ban and tabled the measure for this session. At the time, Van Cleave credited pro-gun activists with the bill’s defeat.
Gov. Northam admitted that he “came up short” on that legislation but said he plans to try again next year.
“I will not stop,” he said.
Van Cleave is also looking forward. In an email to supporters, he called the fight a “war, not a skirmish” that will be “going on for a long while.” He urged Virginia residents to remain engaged and to flip the legislature back to red in 2021.
“The last election gave us a bad hand to play this year and next. We need to fix that,” he said. “Elections are in 2021 and the entire House is up for grabs. This ship can be turned around if gun owners all do their part, beginning with voting in every election, voting for freedom, and actively supporting pro-liberty candidates.”