Here are the 10 Virginia gun laws that took effect amid nationwide unrest

Jake Dima, DCNF 

  • Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam passed a slew of gun laws in April, despite opposition from pro-gun groups and Republicans, who hold a minority in the state.
  • The laws passed in April took effect Wednesday amid nationwide unrest an increase in firearm sales.
  • The new regulations limit handgun purchases, create a red flag law and instill universal background checks, among other restrictions.

A host of gun control laws, passed months ago and spearheaded by Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, took effect on Wednesday in the commonwealth after months of fierce opposition from pro-firearm groups.

Northam signed the slew of gun restrictions in April after they passed the state’s General Assembly, where Democrats hold the majority, USA Today reported. The lawmakers faced dissent from over 20,000 angry citizens — many of whom were heavily armed — in the state’s capital in late January, according to Fox News.

Virginia Citizens Defense League, a Second Amendment group, gained thousands of members amid the gun-control deliberations in the assembly, and sued to block one of the regulations, which limited firearm purchasers to one handgun per month. A judge denied their request last week, the Daily Press reported.

“We lose too many Virginians to gun violence, and it is past time we took bold, meaningful action to make our communities safer,” Northam said in a press release in April. “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.”

These regulations come amid nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight mutes, video showed. Gun sales have skyrocketed to record levels, following mass violence from demonstrators, according to PBS News.

Here are the new laws passed by Northam:

1. Virginians are only allowed one handgun purchase a month.

This is not a new law, but a reinstatement of an old ordinance, which ran 1993 to 2012. The aim is to disallow the stockpiling of pistols and dissuade gun trafficking, according to a press release.

2. Gun owners are subject to a red flag law.

The Extreme Risk Protective Order allows the state to “temporarily separate a person from their firearms when they represent a danger to themselves or others” before seeing a judge in court, according to the press release.

3. Background checks are mandated on all firearm sales and transfers (also known as universal background checks).

All firearm sellers, including private transactions at gun shows, must run background checks, the release said.

4. Gun owners have 48 hours to report a lost or stolen firearm.

Gun owners whose firearms were misplaced or stolen can face civil penalties if they don’t report the matter to authorities within two days, the release said.

5. Guns in households with children must be securely stored.

Gun owners will face a harsher penalty if they “recklessly” keep firearms in a home with children under the age of 14, according to the press release. The offense was increased to a class 1 misdemeanor, which carries jail time as a possible penalty.

The law previously was a class 3 misdemeanor with a $500 fine.

6. One piece of signed legislation banned “trigger activators.”

Northam’s law bans “trigger activators,” which enable “more than one shot with the pull of the trigger,” according to the legislation.

Binary triggers fire a single projectile when the trigger is pulled in addition to another round when a shooter releases their finger from the trigger. These have been legal to own as they simulate automatic fire and don’t make a semi-automatic firearm fully automatic, according to Gun Mag Warehouse.

The Gun Owners of America, a pro-Second Amendment group said “The new law DOES NOT prohibit binary triggers,” according to a statement on their webpage.

7. Child care facilities must lock down firearms.

Family day homes, care facilities for children that aren’t blood related, must lock and secure all firearms during daily operations, according to Virginia legal text.

8. Some gun safes are exempt from sales tax. 

Gun safes bought for a price less than $1,500 will not incur sales tax, one bill specified.

9. Those under the scrutiny of protective orders are required to promptly surrender their firearms. 

Gun owners served with protective orders must turn their weapons over to the state within 24 hours of receiving the notice, another bill detailed. Protective orders refer to those who the state deems to be unfit to possess firearms or a concealed weapons permit.

10. Cities and counties have leeway in regulating firearms.

Different localities can impose their own regulations on where firearms can be carried. Public parks, event spaces, government buildings, and others locations are places that are fair game for banning carry, according to the Daily Press.

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