LEADERSHIP: Governor Northam and Virginia Lawmakers Take Decisive Action, Signing Bills to Protect Elections and Communities from Violence
Washington DC—Giffords, the gun safety group co-founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, applauds the Virginia legislature and Governor Ralph Northam for signing into law a package of legislation that will protect elections and communities from gun violence. The legislation—which includes measures to protect survivors of domestic violence and limit open carry—marks another victory for gun safety in the Commonwealth. Giffords supported each of these bills through written testimony.
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords:
“In Virginia, lawmakers proved they could not be intimidated by armed extremists, and acted decisively to pass needed measures to protect voters and the public from senseless violence. We thank Virginians who made their voices heard and champions like bill patrons Delegates Murphy, Levine, Lopez, and Simon who listened and remained committed to passing these gun safety bills. We applaud Governor Northam for signing these pieces of legislation into law so Virginia can continue to be a gun violence prevention leader.”
Governor Northam took action on the following pieces of gun safety legislation:
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. 1992, whichwill make a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction firearm prohibiting 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. The Governor proposed amendments to clarify that this prohibition applies to individuals in a domestic partnership and extends the period of prohibition from three years to five years.
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 firearms in Capitol Square, the Virginia State Capitol, and state-owned buildings. 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. The Governor’s proposed amendment would provide an exemption for magistrates.
One piece of legislation that did not pass this session was H.B. 2276, whichwould have intervened 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. Giffords will continue to advocate for passage of a bill to address the growing issue of ghost guns in Virginia.
Last year, Virginia signed a historic gun safety package into law, which included an extreme risk protection order law, an expansion of background checks, reinstatement of the state’s one-handgun-a-month law, legislation requiring the reporting of 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. According to Giffords Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard, Virginia was one of the only three states that raised its grade after significantly improving gun safety legislation.
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 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.
Giffords also 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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