Virginia Continues to Lead on Gun Safety with House of Delegates Passing Laws to Protect Elections and Communities from Violence
Washington, DC — The Virginia House of Delegates passed new laws that will protect elections and communities from gun violence in a move celebrated by Giffords, the gun safety group co-founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The legislative package––including measures to prohibit ghost guns and limit open carry––now heads to the state senate for consideration. Giffords supported each of these bills through written testimony.
“The bills passed over the course of this week will keep Virginians safe by taking clear, responsible steps to protect voters and the public from senseless violence,” said Molly Voigt, State Legislative Manager. “This could not have happened without swift action from the Public Safety Committee, led by Delegate Hope. In committee and on the floor, Delegates Levine, Murphy, Lopez, and Simon made sure everyone understood the necessity of these lifesaving measures by securing quick passage. The fight is not over. Now it’s time for the state senate to act in the interests of the Commonwealth and defend it’s communities by sending these bills to the governor’s desk so Virginia can continue to become a gun violence prevention leader.”
Last year, Virginia signed a historic gun safety package into law, which included an extreme risk protection order, an expansion of background checks, reinstatement of the state’s one handgun a month law, legislation to report lost or stolen firearms, and legislation to prevent firearms from being accessible to children. These were the first pieces of gun safety legislation passed in the Commonwealth in nearly a decade.
The signing followed the elevation of Democratic majorities in both the House of Delegates and state senate in the 2019 election. Overall, Giffords supported 40 candidates who put gun safety front and center in their General Assembly bids. To support this robust slate of gun safety champions, Giffords PAC launched an innovative $300,000 digital ad campaign to support gun safety champions that ran statewide with heavy focuses in the Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Virginia Beach areas. The campaign aimed to turn out Democratic voters for whom gun safety is a motivating factor in the wake of galling inaction by the Republican leadership during the recent special session.
Along with motivating voters on screens, Giffords also came to their communities. Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords hosted a gathering outside the headquarters of the NRA. She then traveled to Virginia Beach for a roundtable with gun violence survivors, where she was joined by Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-2), Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler, and Delegate Cheryl Turpin and Missy Cotter Smasal, candidates for state senate. The weekend also included a number of stops at canvassing events.
The gun safety legislation passed this week by the House of Delegates includes:
H.B. 1992, whichwould make a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction a gun prohibitor and would prohibit adjudicated juveniles who were convicted of domestic violence. Currently, 32 states, the District of Columbia, and federal law prohibit gun possession by people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors yet Virginia is not one of them.
H.B. 2128, which will extend the time the State Police have to conduct a background check before a dealer can deliver a gun to a purchaser. Before this bill, if the Department of State Police was unable to determine in three business days whether a purchaser was prohibited, the dealer was authorized to immediately turn over the gun to the unvetted purchaser. H.B. 2128 extends this “default proceed” period to five business days.
H.B. 2295, which will prohibit the open carry of a firearm within Capitol Square and the surrounding area. Due to Washington DC’s strong gun laws, the prevalence of firearms among the insurrectionists at the Capitol on 1.6.21 was reduced and helped prevent the violence from becoming even more deadly.
H.B. 2081, which will prohibit firearms within 40 feet of defined areas including polling places, meeting places of the electoral board, and buildings where a recount is occurring, and during defined times.
H.B. 2776, whichprovides intervention against the threat of untraceable firearms, often referred to as “ghost guns”. Ghost guns are increasingly being used in shootings across the country, particularly by individuals who would be unable to pass a background check. This bill will make the possession, sale, or transfer of ghost gun kits and precursor products unlawful to anyone who is not a federal firearms importer or manufacturer, and prohibit the manufacture, sale, and possession of an unserialized ghost gun. Home assembly of firearms would still be permitted using serialized frames and receivers.
Giffords helped change the gun safety tide in Virginia in 2017. That year, voters sent a message at the ballot box from the NRA’s backyard. The NRA spent more than $2 million in statewide races that year—but their investment failed to pay off. NBC exit polling found that 16 percent of Ralph Northam voters reported gun policy as their top issue, second only to healthcare. Those voters helped Democrat Ralph Northam beat out Republican Ed Gillespie in the gubernatorial race—a clear sign that the tide was turning in the Commonwealth.
Giffords PAC hosted a gun violence prevention forum with Northam, ran a complimentary digital campaign during the general election featuring Facebook and Instagram ads targeting 25,000 persuadable voters, and released a radio ad featuring former President Barack Obama highlighting the difference between the candidates on the issue of gun safety.
The successes of 2017 built on the work Giffords did in 2013 to prove gun safety was a winning state-wide issue in Virginia. That year Terry McAulliffe’s run for Governor included vows to enact a gun violence prevention agenda and Giffords created a groundbreaking political program that showed other candidates that they could run and win on the issue. The effort included a targeted mail program, online advertisements directed at voters, a telephone town hall, and recorded calls to Virginia households inviting them to learn more about gubernatorial candidates.
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