Gov. Northam ceremonially signs gun legislation into law

Posted at 2:40 PM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 16:20:38-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Gov. Ralph Northam ceremonially signed seven pieces of gun legislation into law on Thursday morning.

The laws, which took effect on July 1, were passed during the most recent General Assembly session. Northam signed them on the exact one year anniversary of a special session on guns, which was adjourned without anything passing.

"Today would not have been possible without so many Virginians saying enough is enough," Northam said.

The laws expand background checks, reinstate the one handgun-a-month law, create a Red Flag law, increase penalties for recklessly leaving an unattended gun near a child, requires the reporting of lost or stolen guns to law enforcement, gives local governments more power to regulate guns in their jurisdictions, and prohibits people with protective orders from possessing guns.

"No parent should have to bury their child," said Northam.

The new laws take effect as gun sales continue to surge in Virginia. Federal data shows more than 81,000 background checks were initiated during the month of June, a new record in Virginia.

The gun debate is also expected to shift to local governments in the coming weeks and months as local governments are considering new actions under these new laws. Hampton's City Council has discussed banning the open carry of guns in parks and libraries.

"Many residents will call and report feeling unsafe when they see someone walking around in the parks or in the libraries openly displaying assault rifles. It makes them feel uncomfortable. They want to enjoy their parks and libraries without such fear," Hampton City Manager Mary Bunting said during a meeting in late May.

On Tuesday, Newport News City Council members are expected to discuss an ordinance that would ban the open carry of guns in city buildings, facilities, and parks. It would not pertain to concealed carry permit holders.

The issue remains far from settled. Last weekend, pro-second amendment advocates rallied at the State Capitol in Richmond against these new laws. "We think there are a lot of things being passed that shouldn't be passed," said one of the attendees.

Gun laws are expected to come again next year during the General Assembly session, particularly a proposed ban on the future sale of assault weapons. That bill failed to advance during the past session.