RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — A bill that would prohibit carrying firearms within 40 feet of any building used as a polling place has advanced after the House of Delegates passed it with a 53-47 vote Monday.
The bill now heads to the state Senate.
The legislation, House Bill 2081, prohibits any person from knowingly possessing a firearm within 40 feet of any building that’s used as a polling place, including one hour before and one hour after its use as a polling place.
There are exceptions: qualified law-enforcement officers, retired law-enforcement officers, people on private property that are within 40 feet of the polling place, and licensed armed security officers whose job duties are within 40 feet of the polling place.
The bill also restricts people from having a firearm within 40 feet of where the local electoral board meets to determine the results of any election, as well as any place used for a vote recount.
Violation of the legislation, if passed, would be a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Senior Director of Advocacy Lori Haas issued a statement Monday evening on the House’s passage of the bill.
“We are one step closer in ensuring the safety of voting – one of our most sacred rights with the advancement of Virginia HB2081. This bill would prohibit any person possessing a firearm within 40 feet of a polling place or an election board while the results of an election are being ascertained or recounted. If passed into law, this measure would protect an essential function of our democracy and allow people to exercise their constitutional rights free of intimidation or fear.
“CSGV applauds Delegate Mark Levine for protecting our democracy by introducing this crucial piece of legislation and being a staunch leader in gun violence prevention efforts within the Commonwealth. We look forward to his continued partnership as we work to advance additional efforts to create safe and secure public spaces.
“Voting is a fundamental right and citizens should be able to exercise the franchise safely. Further confirmed by the armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, we cannot allow firearms to be used as armed intimidation or in response to political disagreements.”