PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — As the debate on gun rights continues in Virginia, a particular piece of legislation has drawn the bulk of outrage from gun rights supporters ahead of the upcoming General Assembly session.
Senate Bill 16, proposed by incoming Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, would expand the definition of “assault firearm” in the commonwealth, making it a felony to own pistols, rifles and shotguns considered an “assault weapon.”
The bill would define an “assault weapon” as any semi-automatic pistol or rifle with a fixed magazine capacity exceeding 10 rounds and semi-automatic shotguns with a fixed magazine capacity exceeding seven rounds.
It’s similar to legislation that Governor Ralph Northam put forward following Virginia Beach’s mass shooting. Northam called it an assault weapons ban.
Northam adds he is moving forward with “common sense” gun laws in January.
“We’re not going to take people’s guns away. Our intent is to make our streets safer and really keep guns out of the hands of prohibited individuals. That’s all we’re trying to do,” Northam said.
However unlike the early draft of Senate Bill 16, the Virginia Mercury reports Northam is considering a grandfather clause for people who already have assault weapons. They would be allowed to keep them under his plan, but they will have to register them.
“Any law that we pass in Richmond and the 8-pieces of legislation that I put on the table back in July, they’re constitutional, that is not going to be an issue.”
Gun rights supporters say judges will have the final say on the issue.