Debate over gun legislation heightens as 2020 General Assembly session draws near

General Assembly to discuss gun laws in 2020

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As lawmakers return to the state capitol Wednesday it's left gun rights activists anxious about the future of firearms in the Commonwealth.

Over the past few months, Governor Ralph Northam has proposed stricter gun laws, and now with a blue majority in both the House and Senate change could soon be coming to Virginia.

In the days and weeks leading up to reconvene of the General Assembly on Jan. 8, the NRA has drawn attention to Northam's proposals through billboards posted across RVA.

The NRA has posted billboards across RVA claiming Governor Northam's proposals will result in confiscation of so-called assault weapons. Governor Northam said that's not the case
The NRA has posted billboards across RVA claiming Governor Northam's proposals will result in confiscation of so-called assault weapons. Governor Northam said that's not the case (Source: NBC12)

“The NRA is having town hall meetings across the state to meet with our members and we know that many of them are very, very scared about what’s coming,” said NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen.

At several news conferences the Governor has continuously proposed stricter gun laws, especially following the tragedy in Virginia Beach.

“Not a single thing he is proposing would have prevented the tragedy in Virginia Beach,” Mortensen said.

Northam plans to support eight so-called “common sense” measures that would protect Virginians. Some of those measures include universal background checks and banning so-called assault weapons, suppressors and high-capacity magazines.

“These pieces of legislation that we’re offering are to keep guns out of prohibited hands, it’s very simple,” Northam said Monday. “They’re constitutional, they support the 2nd Amendment and they’re intended to make Virginia as safe as we can make it.”

However, the NRA believes the ban on these types of firearms, which includes the popular AR-15, will lead to confiscation and make anyone who possesses the firearm a criminal.

“He is proposing turning tens of thousands of law abiding Virginians into felons overnight,” Mortensen said. “Not a single thing he is proposing would make anyone any safer.”

“Absolutely nothing in Governor Northam’s proposed gun safety legislation would require mass confiscation of firearms,” said the Governor’s spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky. “The governor’s proposed ban on assault weapons will include a grandfather clause for individuals who already own assault weapons, with the requirement they permit their weapons before the end of a designated grace period.”

While discussion on gun legislation at a special session in July 2019 for the General Assembly was brief, the NRA encourages constituents to get involved with their lawmakers.

“Meet with their lawmakers, send letters, phone calls, because lawmakers need to hear from them,” Mortensen said. “That really is what is going to make the difference here.”

"I support the 2nd Amendment; I own firearms,” Northam said. “I grew up hunting and I have a lot of friends who do as well. Everything that we do continues to support the 2nd Amendment."

Still, gun rights supporters are anxious ahead of lawmakers return to the Capitol, but Northam believes changes need to happen.

“People are getting killed in Virginia every day by gun violence, about three a day,” he said. “Virginians have said enough is enough.”

Several rallies are expected to be held over the course of the next few weeks. Members of the NRA will be heading to the Capitol Jan.13 to meet with lawmakers to discuss the future of gun legislation in the Commonwealth.

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