The House Committee on Public Safety (CPS) approved several firearms bills on Friday morning. The bills include HB 1909, which allows school boards to declare non-school zone property owned by the board as a gun free zone; HB 1992, which prohibits people convicted of assault from owning or possessing a firearm; HB 2128, which increases the firearm sale background check delay from three days to five days, HB2276 which bans plastic firearms and 80 percent receivers; and HB 2295, which bans carrying firearms or stun weapons on Capitol grounds in Richmond. HB2081, which bans carrying firearms at a polling place, passed out of the Privileges and Elections Committee on Wednesday.
“Today marks another important milestone that reflects the commitment of this committee to always put the health and safety of Virginia families first,” CPS Chairman Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) said in a press release. “As long as I chair the Public Safety Committee we will never stop protecting Virginians from gun violence. I hope the morally and financially bankrupt NRA will hear this message loud and clear.”
In the Public Safety Firearms Subcommittee on Tuesday evening, Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) spoke against several of the bills, listing problems with them.
About HB1992, Davis said, “Ya’ll may remember this as the baby carrot bill. This is the bill that if you throw a baby carrot at your cousin over Thanksgiving dinner and you get convicted of assault and battery, you get brought up on charges and lose your Second Amendment rights.”
He said his concern with HB1992 was not the bill itself, but Virginia’s definition of assault and battery, which is different from the federal definition. Davis said the key phrase in Virginia’s definition is “slightest unlawful touching.”
He said, “If you do assault and battery under the federal definition today, you lose your rights to have a firearm, as you should. But under Virginia law if this were to pass, if you literally hit a fellow family member with a baby carrot you can lose your rights to the Second Amendment.”
The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) President Philip Van Cleave also spoke at the meeting. A VCDL news alert provided talking points for speakers who wanted to lobby against the bills.
The alert warned that unlike felony violations, there was no way for people who committed misdemeanor assault and battery to have their firearms rights restored.
In a video on social media, Davis warned that HB2295 would ban high powered flashlights with a flickering “stun” setting on Capitol grounds. Davis referred to a definition from Virginia Code § 18.2-308.1. “This is non-lethal force. This is an item that temporarily incapacitates someone trying to do harm to someone else.”
However, Division of Legislative Services Staff Attorney Sabrina Miller-Bryson said the definition of a stun weapon does not include those flashlights.
Davis replied, “When I’m looking at the definition of a stun weapon and it says ‘anything that emits a pulsed output’ that could be optical, that is a high-intensity strobe flashlight. So what you would give your daughter who’s in high school, I believe we’re banning with this. Whatever anyone thinks about having a firearm on capitol grounds, we’ve gone way too far with what we ban.”
Other members of the committee agreed with Miller-Bryson that the bill would not ban strobing flashlights.
The Tuesday subcommittee came one day after the VCDL Lobby Day car caravan passed through Richmond lobbying against firearms bans.
The VCDL said the HB2295 is “A solution in search of a problem. There has been no events that justify stripping the very people represented by the General Assembly of their right to self-defense. Citizens have been carrying on Capitol grounds and buildings for years responsibly and without incident.”
The House of Delegates is expected to vote on HB2081 on Monday. The other bills will have their first of three readings on Monday, preparing for a possible vote later next week.
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