Virginia Democrat lawmakers backtracked on a gun confiscation proposal on Monday, in the face of pressure from gun rights groups across the state.
“I’m not going to lock up a large part of Virginia,” Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, a Democrat,toldthe Virginia Mercury on Monday.
Virginia Democrats, who in November seized control of both houses of the state’s legislature for the first time in more than two decades, made gun control laws a focus of their campaigns. But the gun confiscation measure, at least, has sparked outrage in a wide swathe of rural localities across the state.
A pending ban on “assault weapons” will now include a provision allowing state gun owners to keep the firearms already in their possession, the Mercury reported.
An early draft of the bill would have made it a felony to possess any firearm defined as an “assault weapon.” Gun rights groups were particularly concerned by the lack of an exception for those who already possess such weapons.
The ban is backed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, whose spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, told the Mercury that “the governor’s assault weapons ban will include a grandfather clause for individuals who already own assault weapons, with the requirement they register their weapons before the end of a designated grace period.”
Asnotedby the Washington Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowski, the move to confiscate guns faced immense grassroots opposition in the state, which has seen a majority of its counties declare themselves“Second Amendment sanctuaries.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve been doing this for over 20 years,” Virginia Citizens Defense League president Philip Van Cleavetoldthe Free Beacon in November. “It’s a sleeping giant that had been pretty much not paying attention to politics, and now they’re awake, and now they’re flooding these sanctuary county hearings. Flooding them.”
Following the news that Virginia Democrats had caved on the gun confiscation proposal, Van Cleave told the Free Beacon he had “no doubt” the reversal could be traced back to the Second Amendment sanctuary movement’s efforts.
“They were hoping to play that card later, but they’re playing it now because they have to find some way to slow down this whole process,” he said.