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'Common Sense' Gun Laws at Core of VA Emergency Declaration

Virginia lawmakers are looking to close a loophole that allows people to buy guns privately or at gun shows with no background checks. (Adobe Stock)
Virginia lawmakers are looking to close a loophole that allows people to buy guns privately or at gun shows with no background checks. (Adobe Stock)
January 17, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency, banning guns on the State Capitol grounds until Tuesday as militia groups from around the country plan to storm Richmond on Monday.

They're protesting gun-control proposals, including more background checks, now in the General Assembly.

Christi West, a member of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense also will be at Monday's rally. She says a new survey shows most Virginians are in favor of the proposals, and her group won't be intimidated by a pro-gun show of force.

"They definitely don't represent what the majority of Virginians want, although they are a very vocal minority," says West. "And so, we're not going to stop until we pass our common-sense gun safety reforms."

Two of the bills would add background checks for private and gun-show sales, and limit handgun purchases to one per month, per person.

Groups that support fewer limits on gun sales and ownership say these restrictions also limit their constitutional rights. And tensions are running high, as dozens of counties and towns across the Commonwealth have passed resolutions to become "Second Amendment sanctuary cities" that refuse to enforce any new gun laws.

West says that hasn't dampened her group's support for the bills, including a so-called "red flag" law, which allows judges to order that guns be confiscated when a person is considered an extreme risk.

"About 30% of firearm deaths in the U.S. are actually suicides, they're not homicides," says West. "So, making sure that red flags or extreme-risk protection order laws are on the books is important."

All three gun control bills passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. And in a new Virginia Commonwealth University survey, more than half of Virginians said gun laws in the state should be stricter, and more than 80 percent support background checks and red-flag laws.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA