HERE WE go again. In January, after President Biden promised to back stricter federal gun control measures, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted 4.3 million background checks nationwide for people who wanted to purchase a firearm. That’s a 79 percent increase over the number of background checks the FBI processed in January 2020—and an all-time record.
The same thing happened in Virginia following the passage of last year’s raft of gun control bills, including a controversial red-flag law. After seven gun control bills were passed by the General Assembly last April and signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam, Virginians bought even more guns. According to the Virginia State Police’s Firearms Transaction Center, a record 587,107 background checks were conducted in the commonwealth in just the first nine months of 2020.
It seems that the more lawmakers try to control guns, the more people buy them. But that didn’t stop state lawmakers from passing even more gun control bills this year. They include:
HB 1909, which would permit any school board in the commonwealth to designate non-school property it owns or leases a “gun-free zone,” with the exception of armed security guards and law enforcement officers. But simply declaring a “gun-free zone” doesn’t make it so. According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, 98 percent of mass public shootings in the U.S. since 1950, including dozens of school shootings, have occurred in places where it was already illegal for citizens to bring guns. This virtue-signaling bill was sent to a conference committee on Wednesday after the House unanimously rejected Senate amendments that changed the wording from “property” to “administrative building.”
HB 1992, which was passed by both chambers, prohibits the purchase, possession or transportation of a firearm by individuals who were convicted of domestic violence against a spouse or former spouse. An amendment by the Senate restores the individual’s gun rights automatically in three years if they do not commit another crime or if they are not subject to a protective order. Unlike feel-good “gun-free zone” legislation, this bill actually focuses on people who a) have already committed a violent crime; and b) have a stronger likelihood of violence in the future. But don’t be surprised if domestic abusers go out and buy more weapons before it goes into effect.
HB 2128 would increase the time the State Police have to do criminal background checks from three to five business days before a firearm is sold or transferred to a new owner. Giving the State Police two extra days to complete background checks is reasonable due to the high volume of gun purchases, which may very well increase if this and other gun control bills become law.
HB 2276, which passed the House on a 52–48 vote, would outlaw the sale or possession of plastic or 3-D printed “ghost guns” that can elude X-ray scanners, as well as “unfinished frames” of firearms without a serial number. Sounds good, but as an article in Reason pointed out, “the problem with imposing legal restrictions intended to stop a practice that is designed to evade legal restrictions is that you were outflanked before you even started.”
The magazine likened attempts to control homemade weapons to “the old Soviet regime trying to shut down the samizdat underground press by regulating copiers”—which, by the way, was a complete failure.
HB 2295, which was passed by the House, would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor to carry any firearm in the state Capitol and surrounding state-owned areas in Richmond, including parking lots, with the exception of law enforcement, court officers and active duty military. Even individuals who have lawful concealed carry permits would have to keep their firearms locked in their vehicles whenever they visited their legislators in Richmond or their weapons could be seized and forfeited.
Last year, Gov. Northam preemptively fenced-off Capitol Square before what turned out to be a peaceful rally attended by thousands of armed Virginians in defense of their Second Amendment rights. This bill would prevent such a demonstration from ever happening again, and perhaps that’s the point, since opponents of the bill correctly point out that while it turns Capitol Square into another “gun-free zone” for law-abiding citizens, it does nothing to prevent armed criminals from entering the area.
Passing more gun control laws may look like state legislators are “doing something” about gun violence. But if recent history is any indication, the result will just be more guns in the commonwealth.