Republicans, Gun-Rights Groups Vow to Fight Va. Gov's Gun-Control Proposals

'None of the gun bills that Governor Northam is pushing will make Virginians any safer'

Ralph Northam
Ralph Northam / Getty Images
January 8, 2019

Virginia Republicans, the National Rifle Association, and a state-based gun-rights group announced their opposition this week to a gun-control package recently unveiled by Democratic governor Ralph Northam.

Kirk Cox, the Republican speaker of Virginia's House of Delegates, outlined in a Monday tweet his party's approach to the wide-ranging package of gun-control measures the governor plans to pursue.

"The @vahousegop will steadfastly fight to defend the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens from far-left gun control proposals this session," he said.

His office told the Washington Free Beacon Republicans would review the details of the individual proposals included in the package when they were made available but pointed to the speaker's tweet as indicative of where the party stands on Northam’s efforts.

The NRA, whose headquarters is based in Virginia, said Northam's proposals were the result of his political ambitions rather than a desire to deal with violent crime.

"Virginians want elected officials to address the root causes of violent crime and find solutions that will save lives instead of pursuing gun-control policies that criminals will not follow and will make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves," Catherine Mortensen, spokesperson for the NRA's Institute of Legislative Action, told the Free Beacon. "This latest gun-control agenda is being pushed by politicians who would rather score political points than tackle the tough issues related to violent crime."

The Virginia Citizens Defense League said the package of gun-control measures would likely criminalize many law-abiding Virginia gun owners.

"None of the gun bills that Governor Northam is pushing will make Virginians any safer," Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, told the Free Beacon. "But they would go a long way into turning law-abiding Virginia citizens into inadvertent criminals."

Northam revealed a vague outline of gun-control proposals he plans to promote at the end of last week. He described the collection of new gun regulations as an attempt to balance gun rights against public safety.

"We lose too many Virginians each year to senseless gun violence, and it is time we take meaningful steps to protect the health and safety of our citizens," Northam said during the plan's announcement. "I look forward to opening a dialogue with the General Assembly on this legislative package of reasonable gun violence reforms, which appropriately balances Second Amendment Rights with public safety."

The announcement did not include the text of the actual bills the governor and state Democrats plan to introduce but did briefly outline each initiative they plan to include, such as a complete ban on the "sale, purchase, possession, and transport" of undefined "assault firearms" including "any firearm that is equipped with a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition." This would affect most firearms currently available for sale in the state and likely millions of gun owners. The ban and confiscation proposal as described in the governor's announcement would be the most radical in the country.

The package also includes extreme risk protection orders, restrictions on how often Virginians will be able to purchase handguns, potential criminal punishments for those who don't report that their firearms were lost or stolen within 24 hours, outlawing the sale of used guns between private citizens without a federal background check, further restrictions on the ability for those subject to a protection order to possess firearms and increasing punishments for those who leave firearms accessible to children while raising the age of children from 14 to 18.

It's unclear if or when the Virginia House, which Republicans control by one vote, or the Virginia Senate, which Republicans control by two votes, will take up Northam's gun-control measures.