Source: Melanie Kowalski
When Democrats won control of both houses of the Virginia Legislature November 5, 2019, Virginia gun-owners got a rude wake-up call. Now that wake-up call is spreading to gun-owners throughout the rest of the 49 states.
In July 2019, Gov. Ralph Northam proposed a package of eight proposals that would tighten Virginia’s gun laws, known as some of the least restrictive in the country. Currently, Virginia’s gun control measures of merit ban the sale of firearms only to high-risk individuals and those convicted of domestic violence. However, the proposals would turn the least restrictive into what some would call dangerously restrictive, a premeditated strike against the Second Amendment. Northam’s proposed package calls for legislation:
- Requiring background checks on all firearms sales and transactions. The bill mandates that any person selling, renting, trading, or transferring a firearm must first obtain the results of a background check before completing the transaction.
- Banning dangerous weapons. This will include bans on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers.
- Reinstating Virginia’s successful [sic] law allowing only one handgun purchase within a 30-day period.
- Requiring that lost and stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement within 24 hours.
- Creating an Extreme Risk Protective Order, allowing law enforcement and the courts to temporarily separate a person from firearms if the person exhibits dangerous behavior that presents an immediate threat to self or others.
- Prohibiting all individuals subject to final protective orders from possessing firearms. The bill expands Virginia law which currently prohibits individuals subject to final protective orders of family abuse from possessing firearms.
- Enhancing the punishment for allowing access to loaded, unsecured firearm by a child from a Class 3 Misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony. The bill also raises the age of the child from 14 to 18.
- Enabling localities to enact any firearms ordinances that are stricter than state law. This includes regulating firearms in municipal buildings, libraries and at permitted events.
Incoming Democratic speaker of the House of Delegates Eileen Filler Corn said gun control is a top Democratic priority for 2020 as she was recently interviewed for Fox News’s On the Hill. This puts the Democrat majority squarely in the middle of a groundswell of activism. As Virginia becomes ground zero for virulent gun control activists, such as Moms Demand Action, they are met by the equally fierce Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), who are determined to protect Second Amendment rights. While Virginia is home to the National Rifle Association (NRA), the VCDL grassroots organization, founded in 1994, is taking the lead in the fight against the legislation. This fight, while still predominantly Virginia-focused, is turning into growing national movement via social media, as word is spreading to gun-owners across the country. The concern is that what happens in Virginia could soon be coming to a state near you, or your own state, via legislative initiatives.
The gun control topic has become so impassioned that VCDL is mounting a 50,000-plus lobbying effort slated for January 20 in the Richmond capital, the day the Democrats assume power. However, the battle is also being fought throughout the state, county by county, city by city. In response to Governor Northam’s statement that laws would be enforced — “if we have constitutional laws on the books and law enforcement officers are not enforcing those laws on the books, then there are going to be consequences, but I’ll cross that bridge if and when we get to it” — the populace is banding together at their respective county board meetings.
Hence the rise of the Second Amendment “sanctuary county” movement. Prince William County’s December 10 meeting was standing room only as the County Board voted on and passed the resolution declaring Prince William County a sanctuary county and that it would not “enforce any unconstitutional law.” To date, with the recent addition of Fauquier County, with direct access to Washington, D.C., 87 out of 95 counties, 11 out of 38 independent cities, and 20 towns have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions in Virginia.
The battle facing Virginians on both sides of the debate is not slowing. Northam, surprised at the vitriolic response of gun-owning citizens tried the divide and conquer tactic when he introduced a provision on Dec. 9 that would grandfather in existing guns that met the proposed weapons ban. However, two key developments have recently both enraged and further energized the gun rights movement.
- Thursday, January 2, four budget hearings were held throughout the state with attention zeroing in on a proposed budget line item calling for a $4.8-million, 18-officer team to enforce the governor’s proposed “assault weapons” ban.
- A legislative draft of a bill was proposed by incoming Senate majority leader Dick Saslaw, making it a felony to possess a pistol, rifle, or shotgun that falls under its “assault weapon” definition.
Saslaw’s definition of an assault weapon would expand to include a firearm magazine that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition. So if a gun-owner owns a popular model like the Glock semi-auto, the standard magazines that come with the gun would make the owner in violation of the Virginia law if passed. This raises the hotly contested confiscation specter — and what the gun-owner will do versus what the authorities will do to the gun-owner.
The scheduled rally on January 20 at the Richmond state capitol will be watched very carefully, because it also has the potential to spiral out of control. Social media channels that discuss the subject daily are spreading the intel that groups like Antifa, the Nazi Party, et al. will be joining the fray, leaving it up to subscribers and viewers to distinguish between those channels that carefully vet information they receive — e.g., law enforcement, actual government documentation — and those that spread the personal opinions of the channels’ owners. As with all channels, the comments sections are indicative of the how strongly people feel about the situation in Virginia and what some are prepared to do.
Gun-owners are no less saddened by Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, or Columbine than their fellow citizens, but they also realize what is at stake if a government body passes laws designed to disarm its citizens in violation of their rights guaranteed by the Constitution and reinforced by the Supreme Court (see D.C. v. Heller).
It seems poignant, and perhaps apropos, that the state that was home to Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, and Madison, and so dominant in the history of the founding of our country, is now once again a battlefield of the people versus their government. On which side will Virginia fall this time?