The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is one of our most important rights. I strongly support the Second Amendment, and many Southwest Virginians proudly and safely exercise it.
Many gun owners are concerned that this right will be in jeopardy under the new majorities in the Virginia General Assembly. The first actions of the new assembly, which began on January 8, confirmed some of those concerns.
On a party-line vote on January 10, the Joint Senate and House Rules Committee and the separate House Rules Committee banned firearms from the state Capitol and legislative office building. Before the committees’ actions, firearm owners with concealed carry permits had been allowed to bring their guns into the buildings.
When I was a member of the House of Delegates, I felt safer rather than less safe knowing that armed individuals were present.
The issue first came up after the September 11 attacks. I was majority leader of the House and strenuously argued against banning guns in the Capitol and legislative buildings.
The Capitol Police are dedicated and effective, but they can’t be everywhere. It was reassuring to know that if a threat materialized, law-abiding individuals carrying their firearms would be present to take action. And when meetings stretched late into the night, it was helpful for legislators to be able to carry their weapons in order to assure their safety.
What is more, advocates for the ban claimed to be acting on the advice of the Capitol Police, but the police chief only gave them his advice when informed by leadership that a firearms ban at the Capitol was going to happen.
Unfortunately, this new restriction on legal firearm use is likely only the first to gain approval in the new General Assembly.
HB 567 outlaws civilian indoor shooting ranges in buildings where more than 50 people work. If 90 percent or more of the range’s users are law enforcement personnel, the range can stay open, but only as long as it maintains a log of the users including their names, phone numbers, and addresses.
Closing ranges would cost gun owners a place to safely practice and perform maintenance. For example, my son plans to use an indoor range to sight his new hunting rifle. That option would be limited by this bill.
One bill, SB 13, would extend the ban on firearms to Capitol Square in Richmond. Another, HB 599 in the House of Delegates and SB 15 in the Senate, would extend the ban on firearms in legislative buildings to all state buildings. This is wrong-headed. Law-abiding gun owners make buildings safer while exercising their constitutional rights.
Governor Northam’s administration is pushing eight bills that would restrict the rights of gun owners. A proposed ban on assault weapons, defined as any semiautomatic rifle or pistol with a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds, only allows people who currently own such weapons to keep them if they can obtain “permission” through a permit issued by the state.
Another bill would give local governments more authority to regulate firearms. Thus, state actions could only be the forerunner of local action in areas where local governments are hostile to the Second Amendment.
If enacted, these bills are likely to make little contribution to public safety. They will curb the ability of law-abiding citizens to make the most of their constitutional rights.
In Washington, too, Democrat legislators are intent on restricting Second Amendment rights, having introduced bans on some weapons, licensing, and other limitations. Fortunately, the Senate is unlikely to pass these measures and President Trump would not likely sign them.
These checks are not present in Virginia, however, where leadership in both legislative chambers and the executive branch are aligned in favor of restrictions on law-abiding gun owners.
On a happier note, I was encouraged when the Democrat majority in the House of Delegates kept proportional representation on committees, a sign that the new majority would not seek to shut out all dissenting voices.
But so far, the voice of one group of dissenters to what the General Assembly is doing, gun owners, is unlikely to be heeded.
No matter what they do in Richmond, I will continue to support the Second Amendment in Washington. I urge legislators in Richmond to do the same and reconsider proposals that place restrictions on one of our most important constitutional rights.
Accordingly, I plan to be in Richmond on January 20 for a rally supporting the Second Amendment.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.