(Video from 1/20/2020)
Virginia’s House of Delegates passed legislation Tuesday afternoon that would ban the sale of certain semi-automatic firearms.
The vote on H.B. 961 was close, with a tally of 51-48, The Wall Street Journal reported. State Democrats currently control 55 seats in the chamber.
“This legislation, just like other bills passed by the House this year, is intended to make Virginians safer every day,” House Democrats said in a statement after the vote.
Republicans vehemently oppose the bill, and opponents argue it will turn law-abiding gun owners into criminals for having commonly available weapons and accessories.
“If you’ve ever said, ‘I’m for the Second Amendment,’ this bill will infringe on it,” GOP Del. Nick Rush said on the House floor Tuesday.
RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia legislators representing Tazewell County and other counties in Southwest Virginia are seeing a sharper divide between representation from rural and urban areas of the state.
State Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell County, said in his weekly update that much of the legislation debated this year is similar to measures already enacted in California and New York.
“Whether issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, doubling the minimum wage, or forcing non-union members to pay union dues, this year’s General Assembly session has a feel more akin to Sacramento or Albany than Richmond,” he said, referring to the control of both the House and the Senate by Democrats and other legislation being pushed through like new gun control laws.
Not only is it based on differences in political party, it’s also a matter of geography and gerrymandering, he said.
“Eleven of the 21 members of the Senate Democrat Caucus live in the Cities of Alexandria and Arlington, and the Counties of Fairfax, Loudoun, or Prince William,” he said. “When Democrats passed the partisan gerrymander that determined the current Senate district boundaries in 2011, they sliced up the Northern Virginia counties to maximize the number of Democrats from Northern Virginia.”
Arlington and Alexandria are two of the most heavily Democrat voting areas in Virginia, he said, enough for just one-and-a-half Senate districts. “But the Democrats’ map managed to place those two localities into five total districts, some meandering through Fairfax and into Loudoun.”
That 2011 Democratic gerrymander was meant to ensure the election of a Democrat majority in the Senate, he said, as well as ensure those Democrat senators would be “very liberal and disproportionately represent Northern Virginia. And now that the Democrats are in the majority, that party’s most liberal members are driving their legislative agenda.”
In the November election, Democrats retained control of the House and won a majority in the Senate.
Democrats from Northern Virginia lead key committees that shape legislation in the Senate, he said, chairing six of the Senate’s 11 standing committees.
“That marks a dramatic shift from last year, when Republicans were in the majority (in the Senate) and committee chairmen represented areas across Virginia,” he said. “While that geographical shift may not determine the outcome of every issue before this year’s session, it does demonstrate a profound difference in the perspective of those driving the agenda. So as you continue to read headlines about Virginia’s General Assembly approving legislation that sounds more suitable for California, you should probably look to the area surrounding Washington, D.C. for an explanation.”
Del. James W. “Will” Morefield, R-Tazewell County, sees the same division.
“There is no question that Northern Virginia is significantly different than rural Virginia,” he said. “There is a constant struggle for power.”
However, Morefield said those in power now may not be representative of the state as a whole.
“I am a firm believer the current elected majority is not representative of the majority of registered voters,” he said. “This is reflective of the small percentage of registered voters participating in the last statewide election.”
This year’s election may change that, he added.
“I am confident the number of voters will increase significantly in the next election (in November),” he said. “Millions of Virginians including myself will not tolerate an attack on our constitutional rights. I cannot stress to all Virginians how important it is to vote. Every vote does count.”
That attack on constitutional rights includes legislation to add more gun laws to the books, all of which Morefield is opposed to.
Those laws that have advanced in the House include limiting handgun purchases to once a month; universal background checks on gun purchases; allowing localities to ban guns in public buildings, parks and other areas; a red flag bill that would allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from anyone deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others; disarming domestic abusers; prohibiting child access to firearms; and mandating reporting lost or stolen guns.
The Senate has passed four gun reform bills, including the red flag and mandatory background checks bills. However, the mandatory background checks does have some exclusions, including between immediate family members and by estate managers.
The next step will for the different versions in the House and Senate to be sent to the other body to consider, and that will happen by “crossover” day, set for today.
If a deal is hammered out and passed, it will go to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for his signature.
One provision championed by Northam is facing a tougher road in the Senate, though.
In a 12-9 vote, the House Public Safety Committee has voted to ban “assault weapons” such as the popular AR-15 and AK-47, magazines that hold more than 12 rounds, and sound suppressors, effective July 1.
However, reports indicate it may not pass the Senate as some Democrats will side with Republicans and it has already been rejected by a Senate committee.
Those gun laws have prompted 91 out of the state’s 95 counties to pass Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
The resolutions not only say residents’ Second Amendment rights will be protected against any unconstitutional gun laws but also that no county funds will be used to in any way support the enforcement of any laws considered unconstitutional.
Tazewell, Giles and Bland have all passed the resolution, as well as McDowell County in West Virginia. The towns of Bluefield, Va. and Cedar Bluff, Va. have also passed the resolutions. Mercer County is considering it.
Many resolutions also include language that say any gun law that is considered unconstitutional will be challenged in court.
©2020 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, W.Va.)
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