More Gun Control Bills Breeze Through Senate Committee
*VPM intern Alan Rodriguez Espinosa reported this story.
Several gun control measures cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday morning.
One of the most debated bills, sponsored by Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), would make an individual guilty of paramilitary activity if they gather with others while armed, and with an intention to intimidate. This legislation passed the committee on a party line vote.
Lucas says the measure could address potential violence at large gatherings like the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Sen. Richard Stuart (R-Stafford) raised concerns that the bill would infringe on Virginians' right to assembly.
“It is a very, very, very severe restriction on our First Amendment right. You don’t even have to get to the Second Amendment of the Constitution. It’s a First Amendment infringement,” Stuart said.
The committee passed a number of other gun-related bills, including onethat prohibits trigger activators and other devices that accelerate the fire rate of a semi-automatic weapon, and a measure that bans firearms in religious preschools and daycare centers.
Adults in Virginia can currently be charged with a misdemeanor if they “recklessly” leave children under the age of 14 with a loaded and unsecured firearm. A billwas struck down by the committee that wouldhave raised the age of children for the purpose of this law to 18 years old.
According to the Chief Medical Examiner’s office, 70 children under 18 years old died in 2018 as a result of firearms. Thirty of these deaths were by suicide. Lori Haas with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said she’s disappointed to see the bill fail.
“We’re losing lives and we need to do more about it,” Haas said. “I find it appalling that anybody would vote against the bill.”
Critics of the bill said it would have impaired parents’ ability to leave guns in the hands of trained unattended teens.
“We think current law covers it. That bill unnecessarily would have put parents in danger of being falsely charged with something,” Philip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League said.
The Virginia House of Delegates passed a series of gun control measures last week, including a limit on the number of guns a person can purchase to one-per-month and universal background checks.