November 5, 2019 the Democrats took control of the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate. What happens now especially to the second amendment in Virginia?
First - take a deep breath. The world is not coming to an end as far as the second amendment goes. You may be surprised to learn that "AR15's" are legal in California to purchase. A state cannot make a particular gun illegal. That is solely in the discretion of the ATF and the US Congress. What a state can do, is require restrictions on lawful firearms. We mostly see this in magazine capacity issues. An AR15 in California has 3 primary modifications to it. The first one is the magazine capacity will cap out at a lower number. Usually around 10. Second, the firearm will not have a "quick release" magazine button, instead, replacing it with a special tool that you must insert into the firearm frame to cause the ejection of the magazine. This makes it more difficult to rapidly reload. Third, the trigger pull can be "heavier".
Much of the money that came into the Virginia races came from California and New York. Certainly many of our elected officials will be influenced to pledge allegiance to their donors ultimate end goals. What will Virginia look like on July 1, 2020? Here are my predictions based on bills already filed last year:
- Universal background checks will likely pass - this basically closes the "gun show loophole" that allows private parties to sell firearms, whereby bypassing standard background checks. In my opinion, this is a VERY good thing. Republicans should have been behind this years ago. Currently the law says that two individuals who live in the same state can sell firearms between each other privately without the buyer having to undertake a background check. This is absurd. Any buyer of a firearm, whether it be new, used or homemade must, in my opinion, let the government weigh in on whether the buyer is a prohibited person. This will simply require two sellers to involve a gun shop to do transactions. We typically charge $27 for this service currently. So this is not going to end the 2A or sabotage the private party market. This will actually make things safer.
- We will likely see magazine restrictions on firearms. There will also likely be a grandfather clause, which means if you own a higher capacity magazine, you will continue to be able to own it. California has tried and failed multiple times to criminalize prior ownership of higher capacity magazines and have been shot down by the federal courts. So, this is probably a VERY good time to buy higher capacity magazines. Keep in mind that if your gun has a 15 round magazine, you may not be able to BUY a new 15 round magazine in the future, but you will be able to buy lower round capacity magazines that will fit your current gun.
- Expect new firearms to have HEAVIER trigger pulls. We call them Massachusetts trigger pulls. Probably about 30-40% heavier pulls.
- Expect red flag laws to show up. This will allow someone to seek an emergency order for the government to seize your firearms if there is sufficient evidence that you are in a mental crisis state. This will be heavily challenged in courts as divesting someone of a right to own a firearm who has not committed a crime is very shaky territory. But it likely will be in place until the courts sort it out.
- Expect limits on handgun purchases. Currently there are no limits. Expect that there will be some restrictions on how many firearms you can purchase a month. When this WAS the law in the Commonwealth, those with concealed carry permits were exempt from this restriction. I expect that to happen again.
- Rifle purchase minimum age to be raised from 18-21
- Expect restrictions on concealed carry reciprocity - Attorney General Herring tried this about 3 years ago, and got whacked down very quickly by the Republicans in the House. That majority has evaporated and now the Democrats will likely allow such a change. This is going to be the time to apply for the Utah concealed carry class. I teach that, and you are going to want the Utah permit if the A.G. gets his way on restricting where our Virginia permit is good.
- Expect mandatory state wide gun free statutes in all state and local government buildings. The law currently allows the locality to decide if firearms are allowed. That is going to be changed.
You will also see "talking points" about silencers, bump stocks, binary triggers the like. Those are kin to pinatas at a 8 year old birthday party. Everyone likes to take a wack at them, but keep in mind, the National Firearm Act applies and the states cannot override the Federal Rules by making something "illegal" that is still "legal" on the federal side.
Gun purchasing and ownership will absolutely be different this time next year. I am not suggesting you buy multiple firearms immediately, but sometime between now and July 1, 2020, if you are looking for something, that will likely be harder to obtain.
Again, not rushing you to buy.. But you should start thinking about it. The Second Amendment is NOT going to end in Virginia. It will just be different, and in some senses, maybe better.. in others maybe much worse.
Attorney Tim Anderson