gun control

Virginia’s Assault Weapons Ban Fails

Pro-gun supporters outside the Virginia State Capitol. Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images

A Virginia bill banning the sale of assault-style weapons and the possession of magazines that hold more than 12 rounds died in committee Monday, dealing a blow to Democrats who have pledged to pass gun control legislation after taking control of the state legislature.

The bill is part of an eight-measure gun control package Governor Ralph Northam began pushing last summer prior to calling a special session on guns. The session was called one month after a mass shooting in Virginia Beach left 12 dead, but led to no new laws after it was almost immediately adjourned. The bills were then given new life when Democrats won control of both houses of the Virginia legislature in November.

In the end, Democratic control wasn’t enough to pass the most controversial bill in Northam’s package. Four moderate Democrats joined Republicans on a Senate committee to reject the bill. They asked for a study on the issue instead.

A spokesperson for Northam told the Washington Post that the Governor is disappointed, but signaled an intention to try again. “We will be back next year,” the spokesperson said.

The bill’s failure marked a win for the gun rights movement in Virginia, which held a large rally at the Capitol last month that raised fears of right-wing violence. Pro-gun activists have also spent months urging counties in the state to declare themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries. In some counties that have adopted a sanctuary resolution, local officials have pledged to not enforce gun control legislation passed out of Richmond.

The proposed ban on assault-style weapons played a big part in the pro-gun revolt, the Associated Press explains:

Gun owners have accused the governor and others of wanting to confiscate commonly owned guns and accessories from law-abiding gun owners. Northam and his allies have said repeatedly they do not want to confiscate guns, but argued that banning new sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines would help prevent mass murders.

The bill that was struck down Monday was a watered down version of the original, which would have banned possession of certain assault-style weapons and forced owners to give them up.

The ban is the third of Northam’s gun measures to fail in the Senate. Four other bills, meanwhile, have passed both the House and Senate and, the AP reports, “should finalize passage in the coming days.” Among them are a red-flag law, a bill allowing cities to ban guns in public buildings, and universal background checks.

Virginia’s Assault Weapons Ban Fails