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Virginia Gov. Northam Signs Gun Legislation, Will Retry Assault Weapons Ban

The Virginia State Capitol as seen on Nov. 10, 2014.
The Virginia State Capitol as seen on Nov. 10, 2014.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed several pieces of gun control legislation into law on Friday.

One new measure will restrict purchases of handguns to one per month.

Another establishes a “red flag” law, or Extreme Risk Protective Order, to permit law enforcement to confiscate weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Other bills require background checks on all gun sales in Virginia, require gun owners to report missing or stolen guns within 48 hours, and increase penalties for leaving guns where children might be able to access them.

Northam suggested amendments to two bills, one of which allows local jurisdictions to regulate guns in public areas. The other outlaws the possession of guns by people subject to protective orders.

On a press call with gun safety activists, Northam pledged to continue to fight for gun legislation.

“I will not stop and that piece of legislation will be introduced again to ban assault weapons [from] our streets,” said Northam.

Activists, including Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt, indicated they would try to repeat their success in Virgina in other states, including Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Northam also recalled the political battle following the Virginia Beach shooting, which happened on May 31, 2019.

Later that summer, Northam called a special session on gun violence, but it lasted under an hour and a half and yielded no legislation. “And then on the election, on Nov. 5,” said Northam, “Virginians spoke and they said enough is enough.” The bills passed Friday were taken up in the next legislative session.

In reaction, Virginia House of Delegates Republican Leader Todd Gilbert said in a statement: “To take a victory lap on such a controversial issue at a time when Virginians are buying firearms at a record pace to protect themselves and their families is counterintuitive. To do so at a time when we need all Virginians unified in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is counterproductive.”

The new laws will go into effect July 1.

Related: Virginia’s General Assembly Passes Final Gun Control Measures, WAMU

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