Virginia Senate Passes 'Red Flag' Law That Helped Trigger Massive Pro-Gun Protest
The so-called “red flag” law that helped draw 22,000 protesters to Virginia’s capital on Monday was approved Wednesday in the state Senate.
The bill, which passed in a 21-19 vote, allows firearms to be confiscated from legal gun owners if those individuals have been deemed to be a risk to themselves or others.
Law enforcement officers or attorneys who work for the state can apply to the court for an “emergency substantial risk order” prohibiting the subject of the order from possessing a firearm.
The proposal will now be considered by Virginia’s House of Delegates, which has a 55-45 Democratic majority.
Jake Rubenstein, a spokesman for Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, told CNN the legislature is doing the will of Virginia voters.
“Virginians spoke loud and clear on Election Day demanding common sense gun violence protections, and make no mistake, we will deliver on that mandate,” Rubenstein said.
In November, Virginia voters put control of the legislature into the hands of Democrats, who have vowed to pursue a strong anti-gun rights agenda.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has said he will sign gun control bills that emerge from the legislature.
On Monday, thousands of armed, pro-Second Amendment activists descended onto Richmond, protesting a spate of gun control laws being considered by the state legislature, including the “red flag” bill.
“These laws aren’t being done in good faith,” Ben Rego of Chesapeake told USA Today.
“The sheer numbers here speaks for itself,” Matthew French of Bland added to the outlet. “I hope our legislators will back off. Today was the civil rights march of my life.”
Many on Twitter protested the new law’s passage in the state Senate:
Virginia senators just passed the Red Flag law allowing law enforcement to enter your home & take all weapons from that home if you are deemed a danger to yourself or community. I guess that means anyone standing against Tyranny is also a threat to them…get what they are doing? pic.twitter.com/wbebIULrIb
— TI GoldStarParent..Mickyd (@mikedav28932902) January 22, 2020
With passing of the “Red Flag Law”, Virginia can now take your guns on the word of any disgruntled person that you’re a danger ! You don’t have a right to have an attorney fight this confiscation until after the removal ! This is totally infringing on the our 2nd amendment rights https://t.co/r3H8rqcTUr
— Richard Daniel Griswold (@Richard12667258) January 23, 2020
If Virginia passes a red flag law, it would become the 18th state to do so. Thirteen states passed red flag laws just since 2018.
Another landmark steps to defeat pro-gun conservatives. https://t.co/KeIXM4jZr5
— firstname.lastname@example.org (@tklyant3383gmai) January 23, 2020
Although Republicans were on the short end of the party-line vote in the Senate that moved SB 240 forward, conservative lawmakers were fierce in their opposition to the measure.
“Each legislator that votes in favor of this bill is, in my opinion, a traitor to Virginia, a traitor to the Second Amendment and a traitor to our constitutional freedoms,” conservative state Sen. Amanda Chase said, according to WTVR.
“What we’re doing is going to undermine not only the Second Amendment rights but the right to due process of Virginians,” Republican state Sen. Mark Obenshain said.
Democrats said the law balances the rights of the individual with the need to take away guns from those who should no longer have them.
“The bill that’s on the floor today is a whole lot more improved in terms of giving the accused person rights to fight back if they feel the order was entered unfairly,” Democratic state Sen. Scott Surovell said.
Under the law’s guidelines, a Virginia court would hear arguments that an individual’s guns should be taken away.
To allow law enforcement to seize an individual’s firearms, the court would need to find “probable cause to believe that a person poses a substantial risk of personal injury to himself or others in the near future by such person’s possession or acquisition of a firearm,” the bill reads.
If that happens, police would serve a court order telling the individual to give up his or her guns.
A search warrant to take away the guns could follow if the initial order is not complied with. The law gives whose guns are taken away the opportunity for a hearing within 14 days of the original decision to argue that their guns should be returned, according to The Virginia Mercury.
Some argued that the proposal will put local police officers who are tasked with taking legal guns away from citizens in danger.
Republican state Sen. A. Benton Chafin Jr. predicted that “bloodshed … will occur as a result of this bill,” according to The Washington Post.
Republican state Sen. Bryce Reeves agreed.
“You’re going to put officers at risk,” Reeves told The Mercury. “You’re also going to give officers exigent circumstances to go kick in doors when there’s not really one that exists.”
The law also could put local police in conflict between state law and local governments. More than 125 counties, cities and towns have passed some version of a Second Amendment “sanctuary” resolution to protect firearm owners from guns laws that violate the Constitution, according to The Guardian.
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