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Kaine looks to take Virginia gun plan national

Tim Kaine speaks while seated
U.S. Sen. Time Kaine (D-Va.) is sponsoring federal legislation that mirrors gun control measures passed by Virginia lawmakers in 2020. (File Photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) aims to take Virginia’s gun control legislation, passed in 2020, to a national level.  

Kaine’s lobbying for national gun control legislation was unsuccessful last session, but he is “cautiously optimistic” about the bill’s chances of Republican support this year given recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. 

“It is just harder and harder for this great deliberative body, the U.S. Senate, to ignore this. And the back-to-back horrific shootings in Buffalo and Texas make it very hard to ignore,” Kaine said at a Wednesday press conference in Washington. 

The Virginia Plan to Reduce Gun Violence Act of 2021 includes a one-per-month limit on handgun purchases, which are currently the leading weapon used in firearm homicides and non-negligent manslaughter, according to the latest available data from Pew Research Center.   

The bill would also make it illegal to leave a loaded firearm unattended around an individual younger than the age of 14. Doing so would qualify as a misdemeanor and could result in up to a year in prison or a $2,500 fine. 

If passed, the country would adopt an extreme risk protection order law, which can temporarily seize guns from individuals deemed dangerous in court. Anyone can submit an application for someone to be considered “extreme risk,” and a hearing must be held within 30 days, according to the legislative draft of Kaine’s bill. This is also known colloquially as a red flag law. 

Virginia courts can seize weapons before the conclusion of a hearing, if the application states the gun owner will soon become a danger to themselves or others. 

Kaine has seen gun control measures fail before, he said, which makes him question Republican lawmakers' willingness to cross the aisle. 

“I have some skepticism, because I’ve just been down this path before in the aftermath of the shooting at Virginia Tech,” Kaine said, discussing the mass shooting on the Blacksburg campus that resulted in 32 people being killed. “We couldn’t get Republicans in the Virginia legislature, in 2007, to do background checks. Now, we ended up doing it in 2020, so it was 13 years of effort to finally get there.” 

People convicted of misdemeanor stalking, intimidation or other similar crimes against an "intimate partner” would be prohibited from buying a gun. 

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx) is leading the Republican effort to create bipartisan gun legislation at the request of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). Cornyn previously worked with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct) in the aftermath of school shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, to enact the Fix-NICS Act in 2017. The National Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, prohibits certain people from purchasing firearms. 

Cornyn addressed gun control on the Senate floor Wednesday, saying he would not restrict the rights of lawful gun owners. Rather, Cornyn said he aims to enforce current gun control background checks, including NICS.  

Like Kaine, Cornyn said he is “optimistic” about the chances of finding bipartisan support for gun control legislation in both the House and Senate. 

There have been more than 288 people killed in mass shootings so far in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive.  

“I think the magnitude of this issue can no longer be ignored,” Kaine said.