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Gov. Northam Signs Five New Gun Control Measures Into Law

Man before media microphones
Governor Ralph Northam speaking at a press conference back in January. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Gov. Ralph Northam signed sweeping new gun control measures into law on Friday. 

The five bills Northam signed include limiting handgun purchases to one per month, background checks on all gun sales and strict reporting rules for lost or stolen firearms. All of the bills were passed earlier this year by the General Assembly, which Democrats took total control over after last year’s election. 

Speaking to the press, Northam praised gun control advocates and Democrats in the legislature for bringing the bills to his desk.

“This has been a tremendous team effort, but we can’t stop here,” he said. “We need to keep working on this issue.”

Northam vowed to reintroduce a bill next year banning the sale of assault rifles. That bill failed during this year’s session because of technical concerns and opposition from more conservative Senate Democrats.

Among the bills Northam signed Friday was legislation known as a “red flag” law. That bill allows local magistrates to temporarily take away the gun rights of people deemed a threat to themselves or others. Republicans opposed the measure saying it did not adequately protect due process rights.

Northam also made technical amendments to bills allowing for some local control over guns and stripping gun rights from people subject to protective orders. Those amendments will need to be voted on by the General Assembly during its reconvened session on April 22.

Following news of the signing, Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, praised the work of activists during last year’s election and during the recent General Assembly session. Fifteen candidates endorsed by Moms Demand Action won their races in November.

“We worked hard and we won big, setting the stage for gun safety bills to finally get passed out of the new General Assembly and on to a governor who would sign them into law,” Watts said.

Gun control advocates say they will now use their success in Virginia as a model for getting new legislation passed in other battleground states like Arizona, Iowa and South Carolina. 

John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said his organization plans to spend $1.25 million on digital advertising in those states. 

“All of those states have a very similar fact pattern to Virginia, which is you see the public overwhelmingly in favor of gun safety and the legislature not doing the peoples’ business,” Feinblatt said. “Our job is to hold those legislators accountable for not following the will of the people and, if they won’t, the voters are going to vote them out just like Virginia.”

Northam will have until midnight on Saturday to sign or amend any legislation still on his desk.