RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Democrats used their majority power in the Virginia Senate to kill several Republican bills that aimed to roll back gun restrictions passed over the last two years.
When the party had full control of the General Assembly, Democrats passed a “red flag” law that allows authorities to temporarily take firearms from owners believed to be dangerous or who could pose a threat to themselves or others.
Measures giving local governments the ability to ban firearms for certain events and in certain areas and requiring gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm within 48 hours were also signed into law.
Efforts to roll back these laws advanced through the GOP-controlled House of Delegates on party-line votes this year, but Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted them down on Monday.
“Who among us is such an expert on reading someone’s mind that we can predict who will commit a crime even before they commit one and how does one prove that a crime was prevented when no crime has actually occurred,” Del. Marie March (R-Floyd) said when presenting her bill to repeal the “red flag” law. “We are depriving people of liberty and property for an accused thought crime.”
Members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a gun-rights group, spoke in support of March’s bill by arguing the current law doesn’t help those with mental health issues in need of help.
A representative of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said the law “is working” and that Virginia State Police reports the policy is being used “judiciously.”
March’s legislation was passed by indefinitely, a motion that effectively kills the measure, on a 9-6 vote along partisan lines.
A measure from Del. Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) to undo a law giving localities the authority to prohibit guns in certain buildings and during events was also rejected by the panel on a 9-6 vote Monday. Del. Wilt told the committee that his bill wouldn’t have impacted firearm bans in courthouses and would still allow localities to prohibit guns in local government buildings.
State Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) called Wilt’s bill the “antithesis” of the idea that local governments know what is best for their areas and should make these decisions.
“We’re charged to oversee broader issues to bring, what can I say, a harmony, a levelness, across all areas, localities of the state. That we don’t put all our citizens in potential harm’s way, making them a criminal just by crossing a locality,” Wilt responded.
VCDL President Philip Van Cleave also spoke in support in favor of Wilt’s bill, arguing that the current policy creates issues for gun owners who may not be aware of certain local events where guns are banned.
Legislation from Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) that would have repealed the requirement that a gun owner report a lost or stolen firearm to local authorities or the state police did get one Democratic vote — from state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) — but still failed to move through the committee.