Bills target gun violence

Published 9:21 pm Monday, January 7, 2019

Virginia state legislators representing Suffolk are at the forefront of the gun violence debate as the Virginia General Assembly gets ready to start session next Wednesday.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced a package of legislation to prevent gun violence and improve safety. Two pieces of legislation patroned by Sen. Louise Lucas and Delegate Cliff Hayes, both of whom represent parts of Suffolk, look to minimize gun violence in Virginia.

Currently, in Virginia, background checks are not required for private and online sales of firearms, but Lucas and Delegate Ken Plum have patroned a universal background check bill.

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This bill requires a background check on all firearm sales, private or public.

“Universal background checks are the only way that we can protect Virginians by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Lucas said in a press release. “According to an April 2017 Quinnipiac Poll, 94 percent of Virginians are in support of universal background checks. Gun violence is an epidemic, and I am delighted to sponsor and fight for legislation that will help end this epidemic in Virginia.”

State law currently calls for a penalty for adults who “recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of 14.”

The penalty is currently being charged with a class 3 misdemeanor, which comes with a fine of no more than $500.

Hayes and Sen. Janet Howell have patroned a bill that would raise the penalty and also raise the age of the child in question from 14 to 18.

“Legislation should be a reflection of our values,” Hayes said in a press release. “We believe this legislation will protect the lives of many innocent young people. This can be done by securing weapons in a way that will not endanger their lives.”

Other legislation that will be presented in the gun violence package will be the Extreme Risk Protective Order, which creates a legal mechanism to seize firearms temporarily if a court of law determines a person poses a substantial danger to themselves or others.

The state in 2012 repealed a law that limited people to one handgun purchase a month. Prior to its repeal, it was in effect for almost 20 years. Delegate Jeion Ward and Sen. Mamie Locke are the patrons of the bill.

Other proposed legislation includes a ban on the sale, purchase, possession and transport of assault firearms in the state. An assault firearm is defined as a firearm that is equipped with a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

“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 in a release. “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.”