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Virginia lawmakers, advocates react to new gun reform bill passed by Senate

U.S. Senators passed a bipartisan gun reform bill Thursday night.
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 11:30 PM EDT|Updated: 14 hours ago
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Senate Democrats and more than a dozen Republicans passed the largest bipartisan gun reform bill in decades Thursday night.

The bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes funding to implement and improve Red Flag programs in states around the country.

It’s a program already implemented here in Virginia but the bill would encourage states to include juvenile records when it comes to background checks and closes what many call the “Boyfriend Loophole”.

A move that gun advocates in Richmond feel infringes on people’s second amendment rights.

“That’s something we’ve always been against,” Philip Van Cleave, with Virginia Citizens Defense League, said. " A misdemeanor of domestic violence is what takes your rights away, it could take them away forever. That makes no sense it’s a misdemeanor. You don’t lose civil rights because it’s a misdemeanor. That’s why we have them, it’s a minor crime.”

Currently, domestic abusers are not allowed to purchase guns only if the victim was a partner, someone they are living with, or someone they had a child with.

Those supporting the change say it will protect victims who may have just been dating their abuser.

“Let’s be clear this is a person who has been in front of a judge, in a courtroom and convicted of domestic violence. A history of violence is the single biggest predictor of future violence and we’re willing to let that person remain armed,” Lori Haas, with the Center for Gun Violence Solutions, said. “I think this is absolutely necessary.”

There is some common ground both sides agree on including increased funding to go toward mental health programs.

“In particular we need more funds at the schools for elementary, middle, and high school,” Haas said. “So I think that component of the bill is a major step forward.”

“If you can stop people from wanting to kill other people then we don’t have to worry about anything,” Van Cleave, said. “So that money in there, that’s an okay thing and I think that’s well worthwhile.”

Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine’s office released this statement after the bill passed Thursday night:

“Virginians know all too well the pain of gun violence—pain no one should have to experience. While nothing can bring back a life lost to gun violence, we are hopeful that the reasonable measures advanced through this bill will help curb the plague of shootings that continue to haunt American communities. We will continue to work to build on today’s milestone by advocating for additional measures to protect our neighborhoods from further senseless attacks. In the meantime, we urge our colleagues in the House to move quickly so that this bill can start saving lives.”

The package will still need to pass the House before it can be signed into law.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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