Virginia house Democrats passed a bill on Tuesday banning the sale of “assault weapons” and calling for the confiscation of magazines capable of holding more than 12 rounds.
Thebillwould outlaw new sales of some of the country’s most popular firearms, including the AR-15. It would also make possession of ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 12 rounds punishable by up to one year in prison even if the magazines were legally purchased.
The bill, known as HB961, passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 51 to 48 with all Republicans and several Democrats voicing opposition. It is the most controversial measure Democratic lawmakers and Governor Ralph Northam (D.) have advanced since taking control of both houses of the state legislature in November. If signed into law, it would be among the strictest bans in the country.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s trade group, estimates that the legislation could affect hundreds of thousands or even millions of Virginians, especially since the vast majority of modern firearms come standard with magazines that hold more than 12 rounds.
“This bill would affect more than just your modern sporting rifles like the AR-15,” Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the group, told theWashington Free Beaconlast week. “It would affect the vast majority of handguns.”
“HB961 will turn law-abiding Virginians into criminals overnight,” Catherine Mortensen, an NRA spokeswoman, told theFree Beacon. “Under this bill, anyone who owns a standard capacity magazine must submit to mandatory confiscation or face one year in jail for each magazine they own. No law-abiding Virginian will be able to buy an AR-15—America’s most popular all-purpose sporting rifle. After receiving money from Michael Bloomberg, House leaders have their hands out for more and clearly have no regard for the will of their constituents.”
“This is a sensible action,” Kris Brown, the group’s president, said in a statement. “We applaud the Delegates for passing this bill and look to the Virginia Senate to ensure that this bill becomes law.”
Virginians would be able until January 2021 to turn in their offending magazines without facing jail time for possessing them. The Brady Campaign said the confiscation scheme was “reasonable,” pointing to similar restrictions in New Jersey, D.C., and Hawaii—though those laws have seen little orno compliance.
“Other states have implemented analogous laws with analogous pathways and timeframes for compliance,” Liam Sullivan, a Brady Campaign spokesman, told theFree Beacon. “The timeframe included in this bill is a reasonable period to allow individuals in Virginia to comply with the law. We appreciate and support those compliance periods, after which stated and reasonable enforcement under the law will be left up to the appropriate authorities.”
The bill now awaits a vote in the state senate where it may face stiff opposition. The senate has passed five gun-control bills—including universal background checks, a red flag bill, and a one-gun-per-month purchase restriction. However, the Democrat-controlled chamber has balked at other major gun control legislation. On Tuesday, it voted downa billthat would have made it a crime not to report a lost or stolen gun within 24 hours.
State senator Lynwood Lewis (D) has already publicly said he would not vote for a new ban. Three other Democratic senators criticized previous iterations of the “assault weapons” ban, according to theAssociated Press. If one of those three Democrats join Republicans to vote against HB961, the ban and confiscation plan will not pass.