RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- A Republican push to roll back gun control policies came up short in the Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday.
The must-pass Senate Judiciary Committee shot down multiple bills that sought to reverse laws passed in 2020, when Democrats controlled every branch of state government. The panel also rejected proposals to make it easier to concealed carry and create exceptions for permit-holders in gun-free zones.
The let down for gun rights advocates is just the latest example of the Senate–still narrowly controlled by Democrats–spoiling GOP priorities after Republicans won back statewide offices and the House of Delegates.
Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave said getting rid of a law empowering local governments to pass firearm bans in various public spaces was their top priority in the 2022 session. In an email sent out to supporters, VCDL said 16 out of 194 localities have created gun-free zones since the bill took effect, forming “a web of laws that can trip up gun owners as they move around in the Commonwealth.”
Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) carried the bill to repeal the law and strip localities of that authority.
“The bad guys with the guns are not going to follow these ordinances,” Chase said. “I think that’s a very naive view to think that if you take the guns away from the good guys that it is going to reduce crime, as we have seen in the City of Richmond.”
The legislation died on a party-line vote of 9-6. Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) was among those opposed.
In defense of keeping the decision-making power with localities, Morrissey said, “Those closest to the governed, govern best.”
Speaking to the committee on zoom, a member of Moms Demand Action said the policy gives her peace of mind. She said, “That firearms are not allowed in these places, along with libraries, rec centers and other sensitive spaces, makes our family and our community safer from gun violence.”
Another bill aimed to create exceptions in gun-free zones for certain public officials like judges, law enforcement officers and commonwealth’s attorneys. As amended, it also would’ve exempted people with concealed carry permits.
Steve Birnbaum spoke out in support, citing his experience as a member of the Jewish community.
“I have rabbis that are scared to go to parks. I’m not asking for a full repeal. I’m asking you to find a solution so that we can secure ourselves. With the events of last week in Texas, we have Jews across Northern Virginia that are terrified,” Birnbaum said
That proposal ultimately failed. So did a bill that would’ve effectively removed permitting requirements for concealed carry and allowed those who would’ve otherwise qualified to bring a handgun anywhere they could lawfully open carry.
A bill from Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) that sought to repeal a law generally restricting handgun purchases to one per month also died.
Meanwhile, Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) is proposing new penalties on so-called ghost guns, despite an uphill battle in a Republican-controlled House. A similar proposal failed to pass last year even with Democratic majorities in both chambers.
Ghost guns are often created using 3D printers or plastic kits. Ebbin said they are intentionally undetectable to metal detectors and don’t have serial numbers.
“We know of some horrific mass shootings that have been perpetuated with what are called ghost guns and they are being sold in Virginia over the internet. We need to see that all guns have a serial number. Responsible gun owners should not object to that and even hobbyists can buy frames, one of the main components of the gun, with a serial number already on it, ” Ebbin said.
Ebbin’s bill was not voted on by the committee on Wednesday but it’s expected to be rescheduled.
In an email, VCDL claimed the bill would make existing homemade firearms illegal and turn innocent citizens into criminals overnight, with no compensation for the loss of their previously legal gun or 80% frame.
“Like the proverbial ‘bull in a china shop,’ this bill is tinkering with extremely complicated gun laws,” the email furthered.
“I think it is more important that we save lives and that everyone operate within the same set of guidelines in Virginia instead of people trying to evade them,” Ebbin said in response to that criticism.