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Virginia Democrats Betray Agreement and Move Ahead on Gun Control

The downside of a democratic form of government was on prominent display Jan. 13 at a Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Committee Chairman John Edwards (D) started things off by breaking a promise to his fellow senators and then promoting confusion with innumerable missteps during the proceedings. Phillip Van Cleave, head of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), of which this writer has been a member, told Liberty Nation “[i]t’s all in disarray — it seems like a total chaotic mess.” The Democratic senators did manage to pass several gun-control bills out of committee for the full Senate to consider, all on 9-5 party-line votes.

Betraying Trust Early

House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (center), and Terry Kilgore (right)

On Friday, Jan. 10, committee members agreed not to hear these gun bills on Monday, Jan. 13, because Senator Bill Stanley (R) could not be in attendance at the meeting. They were a late addition to the calendar because “decisions were made,” according to Edwards. That he decided to renege on his promise was left unstated, preferring the passive voice. Why? Because the Democrats in Richmond thought such a framing would benefit their agenda. The chairman was clear about that, stating, “[w]e had a meeting with my caucus, and there was a strong feeling we should go today.”

If Democrat strategists thought passing the bills out of committee on Monday instead of Wednesday would mean less opposition, they were wrong. The place was packed with pro-gun proponents, while the anti-gunners struggled to fill their space. Van Cleave was shocked to see that the Senate hearing room audience was segregated by supporters vs. opponents of the legislation. He went on to criticize the meeting, calling it a “rubber stamp,” and reminded the legislators that “the state is green with sanctuaries.” More than 100 independent cities and counties in Virginia have passed pledges not to support state legislation that violates the Second Amendment. That support for gun control is broad and shallow while opposition narrower and much deeper was on display at the hearing. Van Cleave reported that empty seats on the anti-gun side had to be filled by draftees whisked in to avoid embarrassment.

Background Checks and Purchase Limits

The Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee is so new they have yet to change the name on the committee website directory, which displays the former Courts of Justice name. Starting with a new majority, the committee with a new name undertook to address several gun bills.

Otto von Bismarck said laws are like sausages; it is better not to see them being made. Boy, was he ever right. There was much confusion in the committee: Votes were cast on bills not even on the day’s calendar, and Senator Dick Saslaw’s (D) extreme gun ban was removed from consideration for the session, as a House bill with similar provisions is set to become the prime focus of anti-gun action.

The bills passed on to the full Senate for consideration include a one-gun-per-month purchase limitation and a more onerous background-check bill. The latter creates a felony out of thin air, requiring that, for the first time in Virginia, with rare exception, all firearm transfers must include the government as a consenting party. That’s far from the worst, however, and will sadly be recognizable to many Virginians who have lived in other states. The really ugly legislation is the revocation of due process.

SB 240 Red Flag or Extreme Risk

Red flag laws or Extreme Risk Protection Orders allow a single civil court judge to order a person’s guns to be seized by police. SB 240 allows a judge to order a gun seizure for 180 days, provides no counsel for the citizen whose rights have been stripped, and has the legal consequence of a criminal conviction unless the order is rescinded. That “conviction” renders a license to carry void and forbids employment by a firearms dealer. Unlike some other states that have these laws, SB 240 allows only prosecutors and police to apply for such an order. That is cold comfort to the victim-survivors of state action should the proposal become law.

That these gun bills would pass out of committee was not a question in the minds of any thoughtful observer of Virginia politics. The manner and form of the Democrats’ control, however, show intolerance to the minority and a desire to seek political advantage at the cost of sober lawmaking. The inelegance with which the assembled handled wholesale change of a precious and hard-won right was tragic. With such impassioned opposition to their stated plans, Democrats would do well to at least pretend to care about the widespread, deeply felt resistance to their attempt to remake Virginia from a permissive gun law state to one of the most restrictive. The VCDL plans to bring a massive crowd to rally at the Capitol on Jan. 20 to demonstrate that November’s election was not a true bellwether of where all the state’s people are on guns.

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Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.

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