December 07, 2023
Fresh off of winning a razor-thin one-vote majority in the state House of Delegates in the last election, Virginia Democrats have shown where their priorities lie by making an “assault weapons” ban the second measure introduced for the upcoming session beginning in January. Identical measures in both the House and Senate—SB2 and HB2—would ban many common firearms used for a number of lawful purposes, along with commonly owned standard capacity magazines that come stock with many firearms purchased. Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), said the bills being introduced so early says a lot about anti-gun Democrats’ priorities this session.
“That's a sort of an indication that they're going to be putting gun control as the second highest priority that they're going to be working on,” Van Cleave said in an exclusive interview with Firearms News. “I warned everybody in our alerts that if we didn't win the elections, if we didn't get the House and the Senate under control—especially if we lost both—that they could count on an assault weapon ban and extending the red-flag law.”
Van Cleave said that unlike a similar proposal in 2020, the bills’ authors were careful not to mention anything about confiscating firearms this time around. At that time, then-Gov. Ralph Northam, a staunch gun-ban advocate, said he was for confiscating the firearms once they were banned. “That woke up all kinds of people,” Van Cleave said. “Finally, that was just enough of a jolt that we ended up with 50,000 people at our Lobby Day that year.
“They ended up getting rid of that bill. They had control of everything and could have passed it, but they dropped it fast. They kind of learned their lesson, and this one is different.”
The new bill would ban many semi-auto firearms, but has a grandfather clause to make people think it’s not so damaging. According to the language, banned guns and magazines owned before the effective date, which would be July 1, 2024, can be kept. What that means is nobody in Virginia could buy a new semi-auto rifle meeting the ban criteria or magazine holding more than 10 rounds after next July.
“This was their way of saying, ‘No, we're not taking your guns,’” Van Cleave said. “Well, yeah, you are. You're taking away future guns. You're taking away guns for the next generation, and if my gun breaks and I want to buy a brand new one, I can't do it. You're taking that away from me.”
Van Cleave hopes Virginia gun owners will see the introduction of the bills as the threat it truly is and buckle down to fight against gun-banners in the Assembly.
“We're getting the word out,” he said. “We've put out an alert and we’ve got some flyers we're putting together to hand out at gun shows. Of course, our Lobby Day is set for January 15, so we’re really trying to rally the troops there and hoping for a good turnout.” Incidentally, if you’re wondering what issue Virginia Democrats deemed even more important than infringing on gun owners’ rights and introduced as the first measure of the session, it was a bill that would codify abortion access in the state.
About the Author
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for nearly 25 years.
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