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Gun control measures move forward in House, Senate / January 30, 2020
Gun control legislation moved forward in the Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday as both chambers of the General Assembly prepare to report out bills to be signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam.

The House approved a package of measures that place a one-a-month limit on handgun sales, allow localities to ban guns in certain public areas, expand background checks for gun buyers and empower courts to issue “red flag” emergency orders taking firearms temporarily away from persons deemed a threat to themselves or others.

The gun measures passed over the vociferous opposition of the Republican minority in the House, which argued the bills violate the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.

House Bill 421, introduced by Del. Marcia Price of Newport News, grants localities the authority to adopt and enforce their own ordinances pertaining to the possession, storage and transportation of firearms. The bill also repeals existing state law that bars local or state government entities from bringing lawsuits against firearms manufacturers.

It passed on a 53-46 vote, mostly along party lines, and set the tone as House members engrossed other bills for final passage at a later date.

Another bill, HB 1083 introduced by Del. C.E. “Cliff” Hayes Jr. of Chesapeake, seeks to change Virginia law to make it a Class 6 felony to recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in the presence of a child 18 years old or younger.

Current law sets the age threshold at 14 or younger, and designates the offense as a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable only by fines.

Hayes, in setting forth the rationale for the bill, said it only applies to “reckless” actions by gun owners that endanger life and limb of any children nearby.

“Don’t leave your loaded, unsecured firearm lying around in the den table while you run out to eat a snack on the back porch,” he said.

Similar cap laws in other states have been shown to lower the risk of accidental discharges of guns by children and reduce rates of suicide among teens, Hayes said.

“What this bill says [is] if you’re going to carry your weapon, be responsible with it and make sure we prevent the reckless behavior of loaded, unsecured firearms in the presence of minors.”

Speaking against the legislation was Halifax Del. James Edmunds, who brought up his experiences hunting with his 16-year-old daughter. Edmunds asked what would happen if, during a hunting outing, his daughter was in the woods by herself and her gun went off accidentally.

“Would I then be in violation of this code as proposed,” Edmunds asked, “and thereby be guilty of a Class 6 felony as a father, on top of any grief that might arise as a result of an accident?”

Edmunds plea failed to change the outcome of voting on the bill, which was engrossed for later passage. Hayes, responding to Edmunds’ question, said his bill specifies that actions must be “reckless,” as determined by law enforcement and court authorities, before a person is charged under the act.

Class 6 felonies in Virginia are punishable both with fines and prison time.

While Democratic majorities press ahead with gun control measures, efforts by Republicans to expand or preserve laws that allow guns in public spaces have generally met a quick death in committee.

House Democrats have halted a number of GOP-sponsored bills to loosen restrictions on firearms, including proposals to not require a permit for a concealed handgun and repeal existing law banning dangerous weapons in places of worship.

A spate of Republican-backed bills were tabled the same week that an estimated 22,000 gun rights supporters rallied at the State Capitol to protest Virginia’s movement towards stiffer gun laws.

Still alive in the House of Delegates is Edmunds’ bill to exempt Second Amendment sanctuary localities from enforcement of new gun laws. Edmunds’ legislation, HB 934, has been assigned to the House Public Safety Committee for consideration.

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Tom, I hope you are happy with the commies that are running the state now! I don't think I can be friendly to anyone that voted these idiots into power in Richmond.

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