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House Passes Gun Control Measures; Governor Says Lives Will Be Saved

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The House of Delegates passed a slew of new gun control measures. (Crixell Matthews/VPM) 

The Virginia House of Delegates passed a slew of new gun control measures Thursday, which has been a major priority for the new Democratic majority.

The measures include mandatory reporting of lost or stolen firearms, limiting handgun purchases to one a month, a “red flag law” that permits judges to temporarily restrict access to guns, and universal background checks. Many of these bills have already passed the Senate, but need to be voted on again before becoming law.

The votes in the Democrat-controlled House were mostly along party lines. Democrats have interpreted the 2019 election results as a referendum on gun control, pointing to polls from Schoen Consulting and Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy.

Although polls suggest broad support for the bills, an estimated 20,000 people protested gun control measures on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Red flag laws and a proposed assault weapons ban, which hasn’t moved forward, have been two measures critics say will infringe on the Second Amendment.

On the “red flag law,” Del. Nick Freitas of (R-Culpepper) said the proposal violates more than just people’s right to bear arms.

“And like I’ve said before, I think this will be potentially used to be a violation of First Amendment rights, as magistrates go over looking at your Facebook or Twitter or whatnot in order to determine ‘Does this particular comment that you might have made constitute a substantial threat to yourself or others?’”

The Virginia Chapter of Moms Demand Action, a group that advocates for gun control measures, was a supporter of the legislation after it passed through the committee system last week. A volunteer with the organization, Nancy Spooner, said, “Last session, common-sense gun legislation wasn’t even given serious consideration, but thanks to the new gun sense majority, we’re one step closer to a safer Virginia. We’re grateful to our elected officials for taking a stand on gun safety.”

An NRA spokesperson, however, said the votes were part of an agenda dictated by former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In a statement, Catherine Mortensen wrote, “Bloomberg politicians in the House of Delegates are out of control and running rough shod over our rights."

The House also approved a bill that would give local governments the ability to pass their own regulations on guns and ammunition. On Twitter, Gov. Ralph Northam described the vote as part of his broader agenda, and wrote, “Make no mistake—these measures will save lives.”\

*Roberto Roldan contributed to this report.