Northam signs gun safety legislation into law
Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday signed several landmark gun violence prevention measures into law, including legislation to enact an Extreme Risk Protective Order, require background checks on all gun sales, mandate reporting of lost and stolen firearms, prevent children from accessing firearms, and reinstate Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month policy.
“We lose too many Virginians to gun violence, and it is past time we took bold, meaningful action to make our communities safer,” said Northam. “I was proud to work with legislators and advocates on these measures, and I am proud to sign them into law. These commonsense laws will save lives.”
More than 1,000 Virginians die from gun-related incidents each year. Following the May 2019 mass shooting in Virginia Beach, he immediately called a special session of the General Assembly to address the gun violence emergency in Virginia.
The governor signed these bills:
- Senate Bill 70 and House Bill 2 require background checks on all firearm sales in Virginia, which will prevent guns from ending up in dangerous hands.
- Senate Bill 240 and House Bill 674 establish an Extreme Risk Protective Order, which creates a legal mechanism for law enforcement to temporarily separate a person from their firearms when they represent a danger to themselves or others. Virginia is now among 19 other states and the District of Columbia in enacting this type of law.
- Senate Bill 69 and House Bill 812 reinstate Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month rule to help curtail stockpiling of firearms and trafficking.
- House Bill 9 requires gun owners to report their lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement within 48 hours or face a civil penalty.
- House Bill 1083 prevents children from accessing firearms by increasing the penalty for recklessly leaving firearms in their presence.
Northam proposed amendments to these bills:
- Senate Bill 35 and House Bill 421 allow localities to regulate firearms in public buildings, parks, recreation centers, and during permitted events. Amendments clarify the exemption for institutions of higher education.
- Senate Bill 479 and House Bill 1004 prohibit individuals subject to protective orders from possessing firearms, require them to turn over their firearms within 24 hours, and certify to the court that they have turned over their weapons. Governor Northam amended this legislation at the request of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. This will enhance safety for victims by allowing judges to hold the respondent in contempt of court if they fail to comply with the certification requirements.
“In November, Virginians called out loud and clear for meaningful legislation to address gun violence in the Commonwealth. They demanded action and we delivered,” said Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn. “I am grateful to the Governor for his leadership and for signing these bills that will save lives.”
“This is a monumental day,” said Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw. “Virginia will be safer thanks to universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders, and restoring a one-handgun-a-month policy. I am proud to have worked side by side with our governor to get this done.”
“This is an historic moment in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “These commonsense measures will undoubtedly save lives.”Gov. Northam looks forward to working with state and local partners to implement these laws and save lives in the Commonwealth of Virginia.