Northam fulfills promise to sign gun control bills into law

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam has signed multiple gun control measures that were passed during the General Assembly session, the governor’s office announced Friday. Legislation signed by Northam includes bills requiring background checks on all firearm sales, establishing a red flag law in Virginia and reinstating the state’s one-handgun-a-month policy.

In the wake of the Virginia Beach mass shooting, several Virginia Democrats campaigned on passing more gun safety measures ahead of the 2020 session. Northam called on state lawmakers to pass additional measures during a special session, but it was adjourned by Republican leadership, who had control of the state legislature before the November elections, after roughly 90 minutes.

“We lose too many Virginians to gun violence, and it is past time we took bold, meaningful action to make our communities safer,” Northam said in a Friday statement. “I was proud to work with legislators and advocates on these measures, and I am proud to sign them into law. These commonsense laws will save lives.”

Republicans held a slight majority in the state Senate and House of Delegates before voters went to the polls but high voter turnout during the off-off year election helped Virginia Democrats seize control of both chambers before election night was over. The shift in power made way for Democrats to fulfill their promise of passing gun control legislation.

“In November, Virginians called out loud and clear for meaningful legislation to address gun violence in the Commonwealth. They demanded action and we delivered,” Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn said. “I am grateful to the Governor for his leadership and for signing these bills that will save lives.”

The governor’s office provided a list of the five bills signed by Northam:

  • Senate Bill 70 and House Bill 2 require background checks on all firearm sales in Virginia, which will prevent guns from ending up in dangerous hands.
  • Senate Bill 240 and House Bill 674 establish an Extreme Risk Protective Order, which creates a legal mechanism for law enforcement to temporarily separate a person from their firearms when they represent a danger to themselves or others. Virginia is now among 19 other states and the District of Columbia in enacting this type of law.
  • Senate Bill 69 and House Bill 812 reinstate Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month rule to help curtail stockpiling of firearms and trafficking.
  • House Bill 9 requires gun owners to report their lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement within 48 hours or face a civil penalty.
  • House Bill 1083 prevents children from accessing firearms by increasing the penalty for recklessly leaving firearms in their presence.

The governor also proposed an amendment on legislation that gives localities authority to regulate firearms in public spaces to “clarify the exemption for institutions of higher education.”

A second proposed amendment from Northam will allow judges to hold individuals in contempt of court if they are in possession of a firearm or do not turn over their guns within 24 hours while subject to a protective order. The decision from the governor came after a request from the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance to alter Senate Bill 479 and House Bill 1004.

House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) called Northam’s announcement counterproductive in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

“To take a victory lap on such a controversial issue at a time when Virginians are buying firearms at a record pace to protect themselves and their families is counterintuitive,” Gilbert said in a statement. “To do so at a time when we need all Virginians unified in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is counterproductive. It was clear from the moment these bills were introduced that they would impact law-abiding gun owners far more than criminals. It’s an unfortunate last chapter in the story of Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to reshape Virginia.”

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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