RICHMOND, Va. – On Wednesday, the Virginia Senate passed the controversial red flag gun law bill.
SB 240 passed with 21 yays and 19 nays.
One day after more than 20,000 gun rights supporters staged a spirited demonstration outside the Capitol, a passionate debate in the Virginia General Assembly ended with a gun control proposal advancing.
Changes passed on a vote along party lines for a Democrat-supported bill that would institute a red flag law, which would let law enforcement officers take guns from people believed to be a danger to themselves or others.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill on Wednesday, according to leaders from both parties.
Democrats said Tuesday that despite the large crowds demonstrating against gun control Monday, they believe the fact that Democrats have control of both houses shows most Virginians support these measures.
“We had elections in November that represented the true will of the people,” said Del. Chris Hurst, a Democrat representing Blacksburg, as he spoke on the House floor Tuesday.
Democrats are pleased that the red flag bill, also called extreme risk protective orders, is moving forward.
“All the bills that we’ve done are fully consistent with the rights that all citizens have under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution,” said Sen. John Edwards, a Democrat representing Roanoke.
Republicans have been pushing for more due process protections, and Democratic leaders said they’re on board.
“Ways that we can improve that law to both keep our communities safe but also to protect people’s Second Amendment rights,” said Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
On Tuesday, the Senate approved changes to the bill, for situations where law enforcement seek to take someone’s guns, which included:
- Requiring a magistrate to believe there’s no alternative
- Notice before officers use a search warrant
- Notice of allegations against the gun owner
“We’ve got to respect people’s due process rights but we’ve also got to do things to keep our communities safe, so I think that’s the balance that we’re striking and I think we’re doing it in the right way with the right tone,” Fairfax said.
Republicans argue the bill can still be used maliciously.
“The red flag bill is one of the worst bills I’ve ever seen come through this chamber,” said Sen. Bill Stanley, a Republican representing Franklin County.
They still oppose any version of it.
“The governor talked about reasonable gun legislation. This is not reasonable gun legislation,” said Sen. Steve Newman, a Republican leader representing the Lynchburg area.
Democratic leaders say they’re still working on an assault weapons ban after one version died in the Senate. Republicans fear it will have magazine size limits, which could affect most handguns.
Also on Tuesday, a committee killed a Republican-backed bill that would increase penalties for anyone using guns while committing violent crimes.
Republicans said they’re gaining more support during this gun rights debate, and they’re more hopeful than ever that they can win back seats in the House in next year’s election.