Bill to ban assault weapons in Virginia advances in House

A bill banning assault weapons has passed through the House of Delegates Committee on Public Safety with a vote of 12-9.

HB 961 would ban the sale of certain semi-automatic firearms, including popular AR-15 style rifles. But the bill would not require current owners of assault weapons to turn them in or register them with state police, as some earlier proposals required.

The bill also prohibits a person from carrying a shotgun with a magazine that will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered in a public place; under existing law, this prohibition applies only in certain localities.

A violation is a Class 6 felony.

“This is a compromise that takes into account folk’s concerns and is still a good bill that will help reduce mass murders in the commonwealth,” said Del. Mark Levine, a Democrat sponsoring the legislation.

“Any legislation that requires Virginians to surrender or destroy their lawfully possessed firearms or standard-issue magazines is tantamount to confiscation and a gross violation of our constitutional rights. Governor Northam and House Democrats are still going after law-abiding citizens with these policies, and Virginians who merely own the most common types of firearms and accessories would be made to be felons and subject to prison,” said House Republican Leader Rep. Todd Gilbert. “House Democrats seem to have learned nothing from the public outcry caused by their proposals. A similar Senate version of House Bill 961 is exactly what prompted the ‘Second Amendment sanctuary cities’ movement across Virginia. These efforts will continue to divide Virginia and without any meaningful public safety outcomes whatsoever.”

The bill also prohibits a dealer from selling, renting, trading, or transferring from his inventory an assault firearm to any person.

Heated debates over guns have dominated this year’s legislative session, as Virginia has become ground zero in the nation’s raging debate over gun control and mass shootings.

Gun owners packed the committee room Friday and erupted in protest when the measured passed. Capitol Police cleared the committee room of almost every spectator after the vote.

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