Gov. Northam outlines gun control policy agenda
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is promoting a series of gun-control measures he says promote public safety while still respecting individual gun rights.
The Democratic governor announced seven proposals at a Capitol news conference Friday ahead of the start of the legislative session next week.
The proposals include a so-called "red flag" measure to take away guns temporarily from people who are considered dangerous. A number of other states have passed similar measures since a mass shooting at a Florida high school last year.
All of the proposals have failed previously in the Republican-controlled General Assembly and will likely face a similar fate this year. But Northam and gun-control advocates say they believe there is a growing momentum on their side for stricter gun laws.
Below is the release issued by Northam:
Governor Ralph Northam today announced a comprehensive package of legislation that will prevent gun violence and improve the safety of Virginia’s citizens and communities. The package includes measures to require universal background checks; establish an Extreme Risk Protective Order; reinstate Virginia’s One Handgun a Month law; prohibit individuals subject to final protective orders from possessing firearms; ban assault firearms; prevent children from accessing firearms; and require individuals to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement.
“We lose too many Virginians each year to senseless gun violence, and it is time we take meaningful steps to protect the health and safety of our citizens,” said Governor Northam. “I look forward to opening a dialogue with the General Assembly on this legislative package of reasonable gun violence reforms, which appropriately balances Second Amendment Rights with public safety.”
“I want to thank Governor Northam for his commitment to preventing gun violence in the Commonwealth, and for advancing this commonsense legislative package that will undoubtedly enhance public safety and save lives,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “I look forward to working with our partners in the General Assembly on both sides of the aisle to find common ground and pass these reasonable measures.”
The Extreme Risk Protective Order, patroned by Delegate Rip Sullivan and Senator George Barker, creates a legal mechanism to temporarily separate a person from their firearms and prevent them from accessing firearms when the court finds that they pose a substantial danger to themselves or others.
“Every death by gun violence is a tragedy, and one of the most heartbreaking facts is that many of these are preventable. This bill, which mirrors legislative steps taken in numerous states from Florida to California, would enable family and friends to stop—with plenty of due process and respect for Second Amendment rights—an individual from committing gun violence before a single shot is fired,” said Delegate Rip Sullivan. “Not only would this bill help stop horrific events like school shootings, it will help address one of the less talked-about crises in Virginia—suicide by firearm. Evidence from other states shows that this type of bill saves lives while remaining consistent with the Second Amendment. It is long past time for us in the Commonwealth to pass this critical bill to curb the emergency that is preventable gun violence.”
The universal background check bill, patroned by Delegate Ken Plum and Senator Louise Lucas, will close a significant loophole in Virginia law, and require background checks on all firearm sales, including private, or online sales.
“Universal background checks are the only way that we can protect Virginians by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “According to an April 2017 Quinnipiac Poll, 94 percent of Virginians are in support of universal background checks. Gun violence is an epidemic, and I am delighted to sponsor and fight for legislation that will help end this epidemic in Virginia.”
Prior to its repeal in 2012, Virginia’s one handgun a month law had been in effect for almost 20 years. Delegate Jeion Ward and Senator Mamie Locke will sponsor legislation to reinstate this law. Virginia has consistently been identified as a source state for crime guns recovered in other states, and this bill will help to prevent people from stockpiling firearms and transporting them for sale in other states.
The protective order bill, patroned by Delegate Kathleen Murphy and Senator Janet Howell, will prevent any person subject to a final order of protection from purchasing, possessing, or transporting firearms. It will also require these individuals to turn over their firearms within 24 hours, and certify to the courts that the firearms have been transferred.
“Having lost a brother to gun violence, this issue is personal for me,” said Delegate Kathleen Murphy. “As the co-founder of the Gun Violence Prevention Caucus and the co-chair of the Safe Virginia Initiative, I’m dedicated to saving lives in the Commonwealth by preventing gun violence. I’m proud to support Governor Northam in this effort.”
The lost and stolen firearm bill, patroned by Delegate Jeff Bourne, requires that any person who loses, or has a firearm stolen from their possession, report the loss or theft to law enforcement within 24 hours of discovery.
The child access prevention bill, patroned by Delegate Cliff Hayes and Senator Janet Howell, increases the penalty for leaving a loaded, unsecured firearm around a child and raises the age of a child in existing law from 14 to 18.
“Legislation should be a reflection of our values,” said Delegate Cliff Hayes. “We believe this legislation will protect the lives of many innocent young people. This can be done by securing weapons in a way that will not endanger their lives.”
Delegate Kathy Tran and Senator Adam Ebbin will patron legislation to ban the sale, purchase, possession, and transport of assault firearms in the Commonwealth. The bill also modifies the definition of assault firearm to any firearm that is equipped with a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
“I am honored to work with Governor Northam to advance commonsense gun safety measures. Assault weapons are intended for the battlefields of war and do not belong in our neighborhoods, schools, and places of worship,” said Delegate Kathy Tran. “It is time for us to pass an assault weapons ban and make Virginia safer for our families and communities.”
“Assault-style weapons have been the common denominator in too many mass shootings. Americans have learned no one is safe from the horrors these guns inflict, even when they are praying in a house of worship, learning in a classroom, or dancing at a concert,” said Senator Adam Ebbin. “Limiting the sale of firearms designed to inflict mass carnage is both a public health necessity and a moral imperative. I am proud to carry Governor Northam’s bill to block access to them in Virginia.”