First Look: How gun laws in Virginia could change this year

Capitol Connection

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The first session of the 2022 General Assembly started on Wednesday. Ahead of Virginia’s legislators are several bills focusing on gun usage, primarily the expansion of it by Republicans.

Democratic efforts to enact gun control laws over the last few years did not go unnoticed by Republicans and Second Amendment advocates. Most notably, an estimated 22,000 people gathered outside of Virginia’s Capitol Square on Lobby Day in 2020 to protest proposed legislation.

The legislation proposed this year focuses on eliminating certain costs or penalties associated with gun usage as well allowing citizens to carry guns in more places.

Expansion of where firearms are permitted

Currently, there are certain places in Virginia where firearms carried by civilians are prohibited, even for those with permits. These are often public spaces or spaces operated by the state.

This session there is a bill prefiled to allow guns at preschools. HB 133 patroned by Republican Mike Cherry seeks to remove preschools and licensed child day centers from the list of schools where firearm possession is prohibited.

HB 23 patroned by Republican Wendell Walker calls for a repeal on the ban of carrying firearms inside a place of worship. It currently is a Class 4 misdemeanor to have a dangerous weapon at a place of worship without “good and sufficient reason.” An identical house bill was filed by Del. John McGuire.

Under Virginia law, localities are able to implement ordinances banning firearms from places such as government buildings, parks and community centers. Guns can also be banned from permitted events by localities. Del. Timothy Anderson has introduced HB 26 to try and revoke that authority from localities.

In the senate, Sen. Amanda Chase filed bill SB 74 that seeks to repeal the same law as Del. Anderson’s bill. She is also going after a similar law that applies to state-operated places. Virginians are barred from carrying firearms in the Capitol, General Assembly Building, Capitol Square, rest stops, DMV and ABC stores. She is patroning SB 75 to repeal that prohibition.

Hunting-related laws

Virginia Delegate Scott Wyatt filed HB 124 in attempt to expand the kinds of gun allowed for big game hunting. If passed, Wyatt’s bill would allow hunters to shoot large animals with a .22 caliber centerfire ammunition.

Wyatt has also introduced HB 120 to give veterans with at least a 30% service-connected disability a free or reduced cost lifetime hunting and fishing license.

Similarly, HB 114 filed by Del. Marie March would allow certain volunteer firefighters and EMS workers to obtain free hunting and fishing licenses.

Costs and permits associated with firearms use

Del. Anderson has filed numerous bills relating to firearms this session. One which relates to gun permit costs and another which relates to penalties for not having that permit.

HB 10 calls for the removal of all fees associated with applying for or issuing a concealed handgun permit.

His other bill, HB 11 seeks to reduce the penalty for carrying a handgun without a permit from a misdemeanor to a civil penalty. Anderson’s bill states that penalty fees should not exceed $100. It would also allow violators to apply for a permit during proceedings and get out of the charge if the permit is approved.

Another bill filed by Anderson applies to a law limiting the purchase of handguns. Under Virginia law, anyone who is not a licensed firearms dealer is limited to purchasing no more than one handgun a month. If passed, HB 14 would do away with that prohibition.

In the senate, Travis Hackworth has filed SB 61 to allow current and retired law-enforcement officers, current and retired commonwealth’s attorneys, current and retired assistant commonwealth’s attorneys, and current and retired judges to carry a gun without applying for individual permit. It would also allow these people to carry a firearm in places that are typically prohibited .

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