Reality Check: Here's What Democrats Are Actually Doing For Gun Safety in Virginia

By Sean Galvin
January 23, 2020

Despite claims of “tyranny,” the laws Virginia’s state legislature are considering are now the norm in many other states.

The anti-gun safety rally held in Richmond this week attracted tens of thousands of participants, many of whom spoke as if the General Assembly was feverishly working to outright ban all guns from the Commonwealth. 

Protesters called Democrats “tyrants” and said that they “did not want to be turned into felons” for owning firearms. One claimed the gun safety laws pursued by Democrats would lead to a civil war, another held a sign with this message: “The American Revolution began for LESS.”

But the legislation proposed by Democrats doesn’t come close to doing what those at the rally posited. Instead, the state legislature is considering what have become standard gun safety laws in many other states. The “red flag” law that recently passed in the state Senate, for example, has already been passed in similar form in 15 states. Universal background check laws, similarly, have been implemented in 12 states and, as the gun safety advocacy group Moms Demand Action notes, are “supported by the majority of voters across the Commonwealth.”

Below we break down the bills that are actually under consideration in the Virginia General Assembly, and the package of legislation backed by Gov. Ralph Northam. 

The state Senate recently moved forward on:

  • Senate Bill 240, also known as the “red flag” law, would give the government permission to remove firearms from anybody dangerous to themselves or others.
  • Senate Bill 35 would allow localities to ban guns from government facilities and any event requiring a permit.
  • Senate Bill 69 would restrict Virginia residents to purchasing one handgun per 30-day period.
  • Senate Bill 70 would require a background check on all private transfers of firearms.

Additionally, Gov. Ralph Northam has also laid out his own legislation agenda, saying he plans to re-introduce several pieces of gun safety legislation that had previously been shot down by the Republican-controlled legislature. Those include proposals to:

  • Ban military-grade weapons, including assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers. People who already own assault rifles would be allowed to keep those firearms.
  • Require lost and stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement within 24 hours.
  • Expand Virginia law to prohibit all people under “protective orders” from possessing firearms. Currently only people under orders regarding family abuse are prohibited. 
  • Increase the punishment for allowing a child to access a loaded, unsecured firearm from a misdemeanor to a felony.
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