Political News

Virginia Senate panel advances Northam gun restrictions

Posted February 24, 2020 3:00 p.m. EST

— A group of seven measures to restrict gun rights in Virginia was advanced by a state Senate committee on Monday.

The Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass legislation ranging from a measure that would provide for expanded background checks on any gun sales or purchases to one that would create an order allowing for the temporary removal of guns from a legal owner if a court determines that the person poses a threat of harm to themselves or others.

According to Tanya Schardt, a senior counsel for the gun-control group Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the bills passed in a near party-line vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans against. CNN has reached out to the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee for comment.

The bills are the remaining part of a package of eight gun violence prevention measures proposed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, in a July 2019 special session of the Virginia Assembly following a mass shooting in Virginia Beach.

One of the bills that would have banned assault or military-style weapons was stalled in the same committee last week after a group of moderate Democrats joined with Republicans to vote down the measure.

"This is a historic step towards commonsense gun safety in the Commonwealth of Virginia," Northam's office said in an email to CNN. "Virginians are demanding real action to combat gun violence and save lives -- that's exactly what these bills will do."

Since taking control of the state government in January, Democrats have made it a priority to advance gun control measures as part of their bid to fulfill campaign promises made in 2019. The newly elected Democrats took the majority after running, in part, on a gun control platform funded heavily by advocacy groups like Everytown For Gun Safety, a group heavily supported by Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg.

The Democrats' legislative efforts have encountered a backlash from pro-gun groups in the state, including the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which argue the measures hurt "law abiding citizens." The group has led an effort to pass symbolic resolutions declaring counties "Second Amendment sanctuaries" in support of Virginians gun rights.

Philip Van Cleave, the league's president, has opposed the Democratic efforts and previously told CNN that the group would challenge the measures in court if they were passed into law.

These bills were first introduced and passed in the House of Delegates and similar companion Senate bills are making their way through the Virginia Assembly.

If passed by the full Senate in the coming weeks, the measures will then move to Northam's desk for his signature.

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