Having won both a legislative majority and the governorship, Virginia Republicans are advancing legislation to roll back the gun laws adopted under former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
In 2020, Northam signed bills that prohibited more than one handgun purchase per person per 30-day period, established universal background checks, gave the authorities the power to seize guns from residents considered potentially dangerous, required owners to report stolen guns within 48 hours, and increased punishments for leaving a loaded gun within the reach of a child.
These bills drew objections from Second Amendment advocates. "To take a victory lap on such a controversial issue at a time when Virginians are buying firearms at a record pace to protect themselves and their families is counterintuitive," House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert declared in an official statement.
Now Virginia Republicans have prepared their own slate of bills to expand legal protections for gun owners and sellers.
Senate Bill 75 would allow Virginians to carry legally owned firearms or explosive materials within government buildings, such as the Virginia Capitol, the Capitol Square, and the surrounding government offices and agencies. Carrying in these locations is currently a misdemeanor.
Republicans also plan to eliminate the requirement that applicants for a concealed handgun permit attend a competency course in person. The bill, H.B. 292, would allow permit seekers to demonstrate competence through participation in online, video, or electronic courses administered by a state-certified or National Rifle Association–certified firearms instructor.
Under H.B. 204, the delay while purchasers undergo a criminal history record will decrease from five business days to three, a direct reversal of Ralph Northam's H.B. 2128. If a gun dealer is told by the state police that background check information will not be available in three business days, the dealer may legally complete the transaction without the information.
H.B. 23 will seek to repeal a restriction on guns in religious places of worship. Under the current law, bringing a weapon into church without "sufficient reason" is a misdemeanor.
D.J. Spiker, the National Rifle Association's Virginia director, believes that these proposals are a good sign.
"The Second Amendment isn't a Republican or Democratic issue, it's a constitutional right." he says. "And while there's a considerable amount of work to do in Virginia to secure those rights, our legislative priorities include restoring preemption and putting an end to the confusing patchwork of anti-gun ordinances we warned would pop up throughout the state."