The Virginia House of Delegates and Senate failed to come to a compromise over a ban on “ghost guns” – a nickname for firearms that are handmade, improvised, or otherwise assembled from unserialized parts. As a result, the bill died when the General Assembly session ended Monday. Although HB 2276 passed in the House of Delegates, senators worried that the bill could have unintended consequences such as preventing legally owned firearms that had been grandfathered in from being transferred to someone else.
A Senate committee had already changed the bill to allow possession of unserialized firearms, but still banned manufacture, sale, or transfer of the weapons.
After the bill had received bipartisan criticism over its unintended consequences, on February 25 Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) suggested a last-ditch attempt to rescue the bill instead of killing it outright. He proposed an amendment that would require the bill to pass again in 2022, a procedural move that would send the bill back to the House of Delegates, where they would likely reject the change, creating a chance for the bill to go into a conference between the two chambers where legislators could attempt to clarify the bill.
“This floor amendment would potentially allow the bill to into conference,” Surovell said.
Senator Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack) said that although he had supported the major gun control efforts of 2020, he thought there were too many problems with the bill as passed by the House.
“It is replete with potential for and actual unintended consequences,” Lewis said.
He added some advice for people drafting future gun legislation: “I know the chasm is deep and wide, but I would suggest in order to avoid these kinds of circumstances, it might be helpful to talk to people who know something about guns.”
Surovell’s amendment passed, and as expected, the House of Delegates rejected the amended version, sending the bill to conference committee. But with time running out, the conference committee failed to proposed a compromise before the end of session, killing the bill.
Virginia Constitutional Conservatives (VCC) spent the General Assembly session sending email blasts warning about what they called “Simon’s Gun Ban,” referring to bill sponsor Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax.)
“This is a great victory for the patriots of Virginia, and this means not every firearm you own will be on a gun confiscation list. This was a long hard battle, and it is only due to your efforts that it was stopped,” VCC Director S. Chris Anders said in a Monday email blast.
In a video message to supporters, Anders said even Republican legislators shouldn’t get credit for blocking the bill. Instead, he credited grassroots efforts to contact legislators in opposition to the bill.
“This has nothing to do with what the politicians in Richmond did. It has everything to do with what you did,” he said. “It was only due to your phone calls and your emails that this stopped.”
He repeated, “These politicians will go around claiming victory, well the victory is not theirs. The victory is yours.”
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