Issues

Virginia Governor Mum on Agenda as Democrats Introduce Radical Gun-Control Bills

Gov. Ralph Northam / Getty Images

Governor Ralph Northam (D., Va.) won't say which of the gun-control bills introduced by his party in the last week he will support, despite an intense public focus on the issue.

While Northam outlined a general gun-control plan last year, he has yet to specify which of the proposals introduced by Democrats in the state legislature he will support in the coming year. In recent days, Northam's colleagues in the state legislature have introduced bills including an "assault firearms" sales-ban-and-registration scheme, a proposal to outlaw the NRA's range in northern Virginia, and blueprints for the confiscation of magazines holding more than 10 rounds, silencers, and certain kinds of ammunition.

The governor's lack of clarity leaves his position on these controversial bills up in the air. That has sowed confusion among both gun-rights leaders and average Virginians about how far to the left Democrats plan to move the state's gun laws. Northam's silence has made it difficult for Virginians to know which bills will move forward in the legislature, despite his recent commitment to center the gun debate around facts.

"As this discussion begins, let’s have an honest conversation based on fact, not fear," Northam said in a speech opening the session on Wednesday. "We will engage in civil dialogue. I ask all Virginians to refrain from promoting fear and intimidation."

Northam's office has not publicly released a list of bills he supports, nor has it responded to repeated calls and emails from the Washington Free Beacon this week seeking clarification on which bills Northam endorses.

Northam had supported a ban on the possession of AR-15s and other firearms for over a year. He appeared to backtrack, however, in the wake of the "Second Amendment sanctuary" movement, which has swept through the state, winning opposition to unconstitutional gun-control laws in 125 Virginia localities over the past two months.

"In this case, the governor's assault weapons ban will include a grandfather clause for individuals who already own assault weapons, with the requirement they register their weapons before the end of a designated grace period," Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky told the Virginia Mercury in December.

Since those comments, a ban on new sales of "assault firearms" with a grandfather clause which requires current owners to register their firearms, H.B. 961, has been introduced. That bill also includes a total ban on possession of firearms suppressors, "trigger activators," and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The governor has not indicated if he will support that bill and did not respond to requests for comment on it.

He also did not indicate if he supports H.B. 899 or H.B. 567, even though those gun proposals drew significant coverage and criticism this week. H.B. 899 would make it a felony to possess ammunition without a lead core. H.B. 567 would make it illegal to operate a public indoor range in a building where more than 50 people work—an apparent effort to ban the NRA's range in Fairfax, Va., according to the Associated Press.

The first committee hearings on the various gun-control proposals will begin on Monday. The NRA is urging its members to attend the Senate Courts of Justice committee and oppose the governor's agenda, however unclear it may be at the moment.