Ending a month’s long battle over gun rights in Virginia, Governor Northam signed five new laws on Friday. The gun control struggle started after Democrats gained control over the government in November and was settled Friday. In July, when the new laws take effect, Virginia will go from being a pro-gun jurisdiction to something far less than that. But will it be a Pyrrhic victory?
Governor Northam announced that:
We lose too many Virginians to gun violence, and it is past time we took bold, meaningful action to make our communities safer… I was proud to work with legislators and advocates on these measures, and I am proud to sign them into law. These commonsense laws will save lives.”
And if they don’t? Opposition to the laws is not just by those who would have liberty at the cost of safety, but see the new restrictions as harmful to both. Virginia Institute for Public Policy president Lynn Taylor* said, “[t]hese laws will make Virginians less safe, not more.” Her group advocates for free markets and individual liberty, and she was particularly concerned about the new “Red Flag” law.
This law, known colloquially as a red flag law, is called an Extreme Gun Violence Protection Order in Virginia. It provides for a new kind of court order that removes the gun rights of people without traditional safeguards for due process. While accused criminals have a bundle of rights to protect them from the state, these laws operate under the fiction that they are civil orders, allowing the state to run roughshod over the people. Taylor foresees a future where people are denied their fundamental rights and may act violently in response. She said the measure would “likely set off more conflict than it will cure, all the while decreasing the liberty of Virginians.”
Another measure prevents Virginians from selling guns to one another privately. The people will now have to get government permission and go to a gun store to complete any transfer. While these types of laws are often the easiest to sell to people outside the gun culture, in today’s lockdown society, we can easily see why they may be damaging to liberty. When the government asserts the power to require you to transfer guns only at gun stores, and then forces gun stores to remain closed, the problem becomes apparent.
Gun rights advocates have fought against the imposition of the new laws, leading a nationwide backlash against the Virginia legislature. Their efforts were not sufficient to prevent the passage of these laws, but they are far from defeated. Liberty Nation spoke with the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League**, Philip Van Cleave, who coordinated the effort to stop the bills in the first place, claimed the legislation was an “attack on law-abiding people,” and that gun owners are sick of it. He was happy they got the worst of the legislation killed (a ban on “assault weapons”), and that what did pass was “watered down.”
The Next Battle
Now the fight will move forward on two fronts, in the courts, and the ballot box. Mr. Van Cleave went on to say that the group will be challenging much of the new legislation in court, as they plan to sue the commonwealth in short order. On the political front, the new legislators who won in November of 2019 should expect to have a much more difficult path to victory in 2021, seeking re-election. Gun rights advocates have long memories and a penchant for single-issue voting. That’s not all – the gun rights leader thinks President Trump may now see a significant bump in support for his re-election in Virginia. “They have awakened a sleeping giant.”
Other provisions passed include a one handgun per month purchase limit, new penalties for not reporting lost or stolen guns, and for allowing firearms to be unsecured in the presence of juveniles. Absent intervening action from the courts, most of these new laws become enforceable July 1.
*Ms. Taylor sits on the board of One Generation Away, the parent organization of Liberty Nation.
** The author has been a member of the VCDL
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