RICHMOND, Va. - Several gun control measures that Governor Ralph Northam included in his legislative priorities for the 2018 General Assembly session were voted down by the Senate Courts of Justice committee Monday morning.
Legislation requiring background checks for all gun purchases, punishing people for carrying firearms in areas where alcohol is served, allowing localities to ban firearms at permitted events, and requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns all failed mostly along party line votes.
Similar bills to these are still in alive in the House of Delegates; however, at the annual “Gun Lobby Day” rally hosted by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, multiple Republican delegates vowed to block attempts at gun control which they view as limiting Second Amendment rights.
“Any government that will seek to disarm you or prevent you from having a firearm and defending yourself, that is a government that is trying to turn citizens into subjects,” said Del. Nicholas Freitas (R - Culpeper). “We’re not subjects in Virginia, we’re citizens. We’ll continue to fight for your Second Amendment rights.”
Gun rights advocates said they will pursue constitutional carry laws and other measures, despite the fact that any bill passed by either chamber would likely be vetoed by Northam.
Northam, who pushed for universal background checks on all firearm purchases during his inaugural address Saturday, spoke to a group of supporters at the annual vigil for victims of gun violence hosted by the Virginia Center for Public Safety.
Multiple speakers acknowledged the defeat earlier in the day, but Northam, a former Army doctor, said his fight for “responsible gun ownership legislation” is just beginning.
“I saw firsthand what weapons of war do to human beings. We do not need them on the streets; we do not need them in our society; and that’s why all of you need to step up and continue this fight,” Northam said.
Republicans and Democrats said November’s election will impact gun legislation this session, but both cited much different reasons.
Democrats said their victories show Virginians want tighter gun laws, but Republicans said it shows they need to work even harder to protect Second Amendment rights.