UPDATE: Here’s Where Gun Safety Legislation in Virginia Stands

By Isabel Soisson

February 13, 2023

The Virginia General Assembly session passed a crucial legislative milestone this week, and with just two weeks left to pass new laws in the commonwealth, here’s an update on where proposed gun bills stand in the Old Dominion.

The House of Delegates reached bipartisan consensus on gun safety with House Bill 2387, sponsored by Democratic Del. Alfonso H. Lopez. This bill was backed by both the National Rifle Association, as well as Democratic leaders and would establish a refundable income tax credit through 2027 for people who purchase one or more firearm safety devices. This comes as several horrific shooting incidents have happened in the state in the past several months. In November, three members of the University of Virginia football team were killed and two others were injured by gun violence. That same month, a shooting at a Chesapeake Walmart left six people, including a 16-year-old, dead. And in early January, a six-year-old shot and wounded Abby Zwerner, a first-grade teacher. 

The Virginia Senate, where Democrats have majority control, was able to pass two bills that improved gun safety this week. Senate Bill 1139, which would require that firearms and ammunition kept in homes with minors be locked in containers that those minors do not have access to. Senate Bill 1067 also passed: under current law, a judge is to consider “any relevant evidence, including any recent act of violence, force, or threat” when deciding whether to temporarily seize the firearms of someone who is considered a threat. SB 1067 expands on this law by adding examples of when a person is deemed a threat to themselves or others, such as when a protective order is violated. 

The Republican majority in the state House approved their own set of bills aimed at making it easier to obtain and carry guns. House Bill 1407 would allow anyone with a concealed handgun permit to carry a weapon or an explosive device into Richmond’s Capitol Square or in buildings owned or leased by the state, even though Democrats outlawed this practice in 2020 for anyone other than police and active military members. House Bill 1427 would remove the authority of a county, city, or town to enact its own ban on firearms from parks and other public spaces, and House Bill 1570 would remove highway rest stops from state-owned areas where people are not allowed to carry a firearm. House Bill 2449 would prevent law enforcement from gaining access to information submitted as part of the background check process involved in purchasing a firearm unless the person is a suspect of a crime. House Bill 2460 would allow most state employees to keep firearms in a locked vehicle while at work. Finally, House Bill 1871 would update how long concealed carry permits last: currently, they last for five years in the state of Virginia; this bill would make it 10 years. 

Several Senate measures that were aimed at improving gun safety were also killed by House Republicans this week. The first is Senate Bill 1167 which sought to establish standards for the companies that manufacture and sell firearms. People also would have been able to sue those companies in civil court. Senate Bill 909 would have required anyone who has lost the right to possess a firearm to tell the court system how they disposed of the weapons, as well as prohibited them from giving them to someone who lives in the same household that is under 21. Senate Bill 1382 would have banned the sale, transfer, or possession of assault firearms manufactured after July 1. The bill would have also grandfathered assault weapons already in legal possession. Anyone younger than 21 would have been banned from possessing assault firearms, regardless of manufacture date, as well. Finally, Senate Bill 901 would have required anyone leaving a handgun in an empty car to lock the car. 

Virginia’s General Assembly is scheduled to finish up for the year on Feb. 24. 

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

CATEGORIES: GUN REFORM | POLITICS

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