Va. Democrats have passed most of their gun-control bills. A big one is still missing.

Va. Democrats have passed most of their gun-control bills. A big one is still missing.
As other gun restrictions have advanced, a proposed assault weapons ban has languished in the General Assembly. This AK-47-style rifle, with a drum magazine that the owner said could hold more than 40 rounds, was carried it at the Jan. 20 pro-gun rally at the Capitol. (Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have passed major gun-control bills creating universal background checks, a red-flag law and reinstating the former one-handgun-a-month rule.

But a big piece of the Democratic gun-control agenda still hasn’t left the starting gate.

Legislation to ban assault weapons was withdrawn immediately in the Senate and a bill filed in the House of Delegates hasn’t been brought up for a committee hearing.

“The mechanics are still being worked on,” said Jake Rubenstein, a spokesman for House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax.

Several Democrats have acknowledged the complexity of the assault weapon proposal, which raises tough policy questions about how to define what an assault weapon is and what to do about the untold number of AR-15-style rifles and other semi-automatic weapons that might be covered that Virginians already own.

The only proposal currently pending in the legislature, filed by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, includes a 10-round magazine cap, but would also ban rifles with telescoping stocks, pistol grips, bayonet mounts, flash suppressors and silencers. Levine’s bill lets people who already have those types of weapons keep them, but only if they’re registered with the state for a fee of up to $50.

Levine said Thursday he’s actively working with the governor and others to find common ground.

“I’m working with all parties, including critics, to provide the best possible vehicle to decrease mass acts of violence while at the same time protecting legitimate uses like hunting, sport shooting and self defense,” Levine said.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.