Virginia General Assembly passes bills to require background checks on all gun sales, restore one-handgun-a-month law

A potential buyer tries out a gun which is displayed on an exhibitor's table during the...
A potential buyer tries out a gun which is displayed on an exhibitor's table during the Nation's Gun Show on November 18, 2016, at Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Updated: Mar. 7, 2020 at 7:10 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Two unresolved pieces of Gov. Ralph Northam’s gun policy agenda have cleared the Virginia General Assembly as the legislative session nears its end.

Legislation to require criminal background checks on all gun sales and restore the state’s former one-handgun-a-month rule won final approval Saturday in the state Senate.

Democratic legislators had been negotiating the finer points of the proposals. On both bills, the House of Delegates agreed to more moderate approaches favored by the Senate.

The background checks bill — a top priority Democrats and gun-control advocates have championed for years — would close the so-called gun show loophole that allows private gun sales without no criminal history check required for the buyer. The Northam administration and House Democrats preferred a broader version of the bill that would also cover gun transfers, which supporters said would avoid creating another loophole and reduce the number of guns changing hands with no regulatory oversight.

Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, had argued the House approach was too broad and could potentially trip up gun owners who lend or give a gun to someone else with no nefarious intent.

“Basically, they accepted our position,” Petersen said on the Senate floor Saturday.

Once the new law is enacted, private sellers will be required to go through a licensed firearms dealer for a background check, ensuring a would-be buyer can legally own a firearm.


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

Submit a news tip.