Virginia State Senate Judiciary Committee Kills Local Gun Control Repeal

The Senate Judiciary Committee killed HB 827, a bill that would remove local authority to pass gun control ordinances. In its Monday meeting, the committee also killed several other Republican gun bills. Although a few bills are still working their way through the legislature, Monday’s committee meeting largely concludes the current General Assembly session in terms of gun policy, with few gains made by either firearms advocates or opponents.

“The session looks to be a wash for both sides, except for one bill on the serial numbers, and then a switchblade bill,” Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave told The Virginia Star. “That’s not totally unexpected, but you never know.”

Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) sponsored HB 827.

“Basically what it does is repeal the code back to what it was before the 2020 session, as far as localities being able to, you know, control where firearms are allowed,” Wilt said.

Chair Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) interjected, “So, in 2020 we passed legislation to allow localities to hold public hearings and enact ordinances that remove guns from different events, and from different public buildings and parks and things like that, and this just undoes that.”

With a large slate of bills on the schedule, Deeds hurried several bill sponsors, including Wilt. Wilt agreed with Deeds’ summary of the bill, but noted that the bill creates a lack of clarity for gun owners of where it is and is not legal to carry a firearm. Additionally, the bill still allows banning firearms in courthouses and some specific public buildings.

The committee voted to kill HB 827; at the end of January the committee killed State Senator Amanda Chase’s (R-Chesterfield) SB 74, a companion to HB 827.

On Monday, the committee also killed Delegate Otto Wachsmann’s (R-Sussex) HB 204 to reduce gun background check delay times, Delegate Marie March’s (R-Floyd) HB 509, which would have repealed Virginia’s red flag law, and Delegate Nick Freitas’ (R-Culpeper) HB 325, which would have repealed a requirement to notify law enforcement of the loss or a theft of a gun within 48 hours.

The VCDL is tracking four remaining bills. State Senator Todd Pillion (R-Washington) is sponsoring SB 758 to legalize selling or possessing a switchblade; the bill passed out of the Senate 40 to zero, and Van Cleave expects it to pass out of the House.

Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax) and State Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) are sponsoring bills to adjust state law banning altering of serial numbers. In a rare alignment between the VCDL and leading Democrats, the VCDL is supporting the bills, which include language that protects gun owners who possess firearms that might have accidentally been scratched or damaged.

Senator Jennifer McClellan’s (D-Richmond) SB 487 is waiting to be heard in the House Public Safety Committee, chaired by Delegate Wilt. The bill would create the Virginia Center for Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention to study firearm intervention and prevention best practices, and to provide data. SB 487 is probably doomed. Republicans already killed its companion in the House, preferring the more law-enforcement-oriented Operation Ceasefire project introduced by Delegate Wilt.

Although the General Assembly session is about to end, the VCDL is looking at other action later this year, including through the courts or, with the help of legislators, through the Office of the Attorney General.

“The battle will continue,” Van Cleave said. “And I just can’t wait for 2023. We’re really, we’re really going to push hard on those elections.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Tony Wilt” by Tony Wilt. Background Photo “Virginia State Capitol” by Martin Kraft. CC BY-SA 3.0.

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