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PolitiFact VA: Sturtevant flips again on support for red flag laws

Glenn Sturtevant
Scott Elmquist
VPM News file
Former state Sen. Glenn Sturtevant has recanted his vote for a 2019 red flag law as he seeks the Republican nomination for the 12th Senate District.

After opposing the laws for years, the former state senator voted for one in 2019. Now, he says that was a mistake.

Glen Sturtevant's candidacy comes along with an apology this spring in his primary election campaign for the 12th District Senate seat in Chesterfield and Colonial Heights.

“I whiffed,” the former state senator recently said about his 2019 vote in favor of a red flag law. The bill would have allowed judges to order the temporary seizure of firearms from a person believed to be a threat to themselves or others, even if that person hasn’t committed a crime.

His vote upset many Republicans and was considered to be a factor in his reelection defeat that fall to Democratic Sen. Ghazala Hashmi.

This year, Sturtevant is promising to lead a fight to repeal Virginia’s red flag law as he wages his primary campaign in a newly-drawn district against state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) and Tina Ramirez, a former congressional candidate. Chase and Ramirez have said they oppose red flag laws.

We put Sturtevant’s statements and actions on red flag laws on PolitiFact’s Flip-O-Meter, which measures the extent a politician has changed on an issue. We don’t judge whether those changes are good or bad.

Sturtevant then

Sturtevant voted against red flag laws in 2016, 2017 and 2018 in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. Each time, the bills died on party-line votes. Republicans, in the majority at the time, said the measure would violate constitutional protections for gun ownership and against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Democrats said the legislation would reduce suicides and homicides by people with mental illnesses.

Conservatives across the nation became more receptive to red flag laws in 2018 after a string of mass shootings. Then-President Donald Trump endorsed such laws in March 2018. Also that month, the National Rifle Association signaled conditional support for red flag laws in a YouTube video that was later set to “private.” Five Republican governors signed red flag laws in 2018, one of which was passed by Florida's Republican-majority legislature.

In January 2019, Sturtevant switched and became the only Republican on the committee to vote for a red flag bill. It died on a 7-to-7 vote, failing to muster the majority it needed to pass.

During debate before the vote, Sturtevant called the public safety goal of the bill “laudable and important.” He voiced concern that anyone who had their guns taken under the red flag law might have to wait as long as 14 days before a judicial hearing to determine whether the person posed a “substantial risk” and should be banned from possessing firearms for up to six months. Sturtevant introduced an amendment that would have mandated the judicial hearing within two days of the gun seizure.

Sturtevant now

Democrats won control of the Senate and the House of Delegates in the 2019 election, when Sturtevant was defeated. The next year, they passed a red flag bill that was signed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

Sturtevant, in his Republican primary bid this year, has been repeatedly asked about his 2019 support for the red flag law and recanted his vote.

“I don’t support red flag laws,” he said at a March 16 candidates forum hosted by the pro-gun rights Virginia Citizens Defense League.

Sturtevant noted that when the 2019 bill came up, red flag laws were “an idea that was getting pushed by President Trump and the NRA. At the time, we thought it was a way to help stop some of the shootings by the mentally ill folks. We have seen since then that it is an abusive and bad policy.”

Sturtevant said his vote was “a mistake; wish I could get it back. But I’ve learned from it. Nobody is perfect, and I’m committed to carrying that legislation to repeal it in the Senate.”

Lauren Fulcher, Sturtevant’s campaign spokesperson, said Sturtevant has come to think that red flag laws deny due process to those who have their firearms taken.

Our ruling

Sturtevant, after opposing red flag bills for three straight years, voted for one in 2019. In this year’s Republican primary, he apologized for the 2019 vote, saying he opposes red flag laws and promising to lead a charge to repeal Virginia’s law.

Sturtevant’s 2019 vote for a red flag law, had we checked it at the time, might have qualified for PolitiFact’s Full Flop rating. The matter at hand, however, is his renunciation this year of his 2019 vote. We rate that a Full Flop.


Glen Sturtevant, comment to the Virginia Citizens Defense League, March 16, 2023

Sturtevant, WRVA interview, March 13, 2023

Virginia Senate, Courts of Justice Committee meeting, Jan. 16, 2019

Interview with Lauren Fulcher, Sturtevant spokesperson, Jan. 20, 2023

National Rifle Association, “We Can Prevent Violence and Protect Freedom,” March 12, 2018

NPR, “NRA Signals Openness To Gun Removal Laws — With Conditions,” March 19, 2018

White House, “President Donald J. Trump is Taking Immediate Actions to Secure Our Schools,” Aug. 5, 2018

Virginia Mercury, “How a 2019 vote on Virginia’s red flag law is shaking up a GOP primary in 2023,” March 20, 2023

PolitiFact Virginia, “Ralph Northam is right: GOP governors and legislatures have OK'd 'red-flag' gun laws,” Jan. 23, 2018

Legislative Information System, SB 1458, 2019 session

LIS, SB 276, 2018 session

LIS, SB 1443, 2017 session

LIS, SB 411, 2016 session