Youngkin vetoes assault weapons ban but signs two gun control bills
Youngkin vetoes assault weapons ban but signs two gun control bills

RICHMOND — Gov. Glenn Youngkin has vetoed the assault weapons ban and a number of other gun control bills passed by Virginia General Assembly, but he signed two firearms-related measures into law: One bans a device that turns a semi-automatic firearm into a machine gun, and the other allows a parent or guardian to be charged with a felony for allowing a child who is considered for threatening to access a weapon.

“I am pleased to sign … public safety bills that are common sense reforms with significant bipartisan support from the General Assembly,” Youngkin (R) said in a written statement.

Youngkin was untested on firearms legislation during the first two years of his administration, when Republicans controlled the House of Delegates and prevented any gun control measures from moving forward. This year, with Democrats holding majorities in both the House and Senate, lawmakers sent multiple bills that put him in place. Youngkin portrayed himself as a Second Amendment patriot in his campaign for the 2021 GOP gubernatorial nomination. But he also refused to answer a National Rifle Association questionnaire and downplayed guns while courting suburban voters who tend to support some arms control.

Youngkin’s limitations, however, were clear in the group of 30 vetoes announced Tuesday, which included a ban on assault weapons and a measure to close the “boyfriend loophole” to prevent someone in a family relationship who is subject to restraining order to obtain access to firearms.

The actions bring Youngkin’s veto total so far this session to 80 — close to the record set by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) of 120 vetoes in a four-year term. With more than 1,000 bills sent to his desk when the General Assembly ends on March 9, Youngkin is on pace to set a new record for rejections.

The two bills he signed were not opposed by the Virginia Citizens Protective League, a prominent gun rights group that did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“He should have signed all the other bills to protect our children and loved ones from gun violence,” said Lori Haas, one of Richmond’s most vocal advocates for gun control since her daughter was wounded in the 2007 killing. .at Virginia Tech.

The two Democrats, who sponsored identical versions of bills in the House and Senate to hold guardians accountable for minor gun crimes, praised Youngkin for signing the measure, which they call “Lucia’s Law” after Lucia Bremer, a 13-year-old Henrico County girl who was shot by a 14-year-old boy in 2021.

“Virginia families will be safer now because of Lucia’s Law,” Dell said. Rodney T. Willett (D-Henrico) — who sponsored HB36, which passed 55-43 in the House, with four Republicans joining every Democrat in support — said in a news release. Sen. Schuyler T. VanValkenburg (D-Henrico), sponsor of SB44, said in the same release that the bill would “hold accountable irresponsible and careless firearm owners.” His bill passed the Senate on a 27-13 vote, with six Republicans joining every Democrat in support.

Youngkin also signed identical House and Senate bills banning the manufacture, sale or possession of an automatic weapon, a device used to convert a semi-automatic firearm into an automatic weapon. The measures — spearheaded by Sen. Russett W. Perry (D-Loudoun) and Del. Michael J. Jones (D-Richmond) – Passed both chambers by wide bipartisan margins.

Youngkin also proposed amendments to six gun-related bills. They include identical House and Senate bills aimed at prohibiting any person from possessing firearms, other weapons or explosives in hospitals that provide mental health services. Youngkin’s amendment would only prohibit someone from transferring a gun to a patient receiving mental health treatment.

Youngkin’s office noted that state law already prohibits firearms in public hospitals and that private hospitals have the right to prohibit firearms on their premises. Haas said private hospital systems asked for the law in its original form because it would be difficult for them to enforce firearms bans if they were only a matter of hospital policy and not a law that police could enforce.

“The police cannot enforce corporate policy,” she said. “The only thing the police can do is charge the person with trespassing, and the police can’t do that.”

Youngkin also amended a bill to make it a Class 1 felony to knowingly possess or sell a firearm that has had its serial number removed or altered, except for antique firearms. Youngkin’s office announced that he had amended the bill to bring it in line with federal law and federal definitions of serial numbers.

Youngkin also amended identical House and Senate bills related to plastic firearms, which can evade detection during security checks and are already banned by state law. The new bills will create a separate crime if a plastic firearm is used in the commission of certain other crimes, including rape, robbery and car theft. His amendment would increase the mandatory minimum sentence from five years to 10.

His latest amendment was to a Senate bill designed to reduce the risk of school shootings like the one in Newport News in January 2023, when a 6-year-old boy shot and wounded his elementary school teacher with a gun he took from his mother’s purse. The measure requires school boards to notify parents annually of their responsibility to store firearms safely in their homes — proposing the same changes he proposed this month in an identical House bill.

Youngkin implemented a “reconstruction clause” requiring the bill to win a vote again the following year. He also ordered state education officials to create a comprehensive list of parental rights and responsibilities and figure out the best way to distribute it to parents.

His vetoes included the House and Senate versions of a bill to ban assault-style firearms, which had been a priority for Democrats, and another pair of bills that would have banned guns from public colleges and universities.

“Shameful and reckless action!” Sen. R. Crades (D-Charlottesville), who sponsored his chamber’s version of both bills, published on X. The campus gun ban — SB383 and HB454 — was requested by officials at the University of Virginia after the deaths of three football players in a school parking lot in 2022.

“While I am committed to ensuring well-secured and safe college campuses in Virginia, this legislation does not adequately account for the many variations in Virginia’s diverse geographic, cultural, and societal norms across different regions of the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said in his veto statement.

The assault weapons ban has always faced little chance of getting through a Republican governor; Democrats failed to pass a version of it even when they had control of the General Assembly and the Executive House four years ago. This year’s attempt would have focused on existing guns to avoid the problem of having to confiscate a popular style of firearm.

But in his veto statement, Youngkin said the Constitution “does not permit the Commonwealth to ban a broad category of firearms widely used for legitimate purposes such as self-defense.” Adding that he was “deeply troubled by the incidence of mass shootings and crimes committed with firearms,” ​​Youngkin said the solution was tougher penalties for crimes and more funding for mental health services.

“I think the governor is living in a one-dimensional public safety fantasy,” Senate Majority Leader Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) said in an interview. “My constituents are not calling me asking for higher minimum sentences and tough on crime policies. … I don’t know how many more mass shootings we have to have before he gets the message.

Vets also include:

  • HB585, which would make it illegal to sell guns from a home less than 1½ miles from an elementary or middle school. Youngkin said it appears to be targeting one person in Prince William County.
  • HB797, which would have eliminated some private certification training programs for obtaining a concealed handgun permit and required the state to provide a more rigorous level of training. Youngkin said he would introduce “bureaucratic obstacles that impede an individual’s right to self-defense.”
  • SB 338, which would require the General Assembly’s audit arm — the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, or JLARC — to study the “social, physical, emotional and economic health consequences of gun violence.” Youngkin said that amounts to politicizing the agency, adding that it “does not mention criminology or require JLARC to consider the self-defense benefits that firearm ownership can provide.”
  • HB362 and SB642, identical measures aimed at closing the “boyfriend loophole” by allowing a judge to bar an “intimate partner” from owning a gun after being convicted of assault and battery. Current law designates only immediate family members for a domestic violence-related gun ban. Youngkin said the term “intimate partner” is vague and that expanding the law would burden the court system.
  • Other vetoed measures would have required someone applying for or renewing a concealed handgun permit to provide fingerprints; limit the number of states whose concealed handgun permits are recognized in Virginia; established a waiting period for firearm purchases; requires guns to be kept in a locked container in homes where there is a child; and prohibits the possession of firearms within 100 feet of a polling place, up from the current limit of 40.

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