Despite opposition from Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly, several new laws intended to prevent gun violence have been signed into law.

Governor Ralph Northam signed several bills last Friday including HB 2, HB 9, HB 1083, SB 69 and SB 240.

Northam, an advocate for gun control, has been urging lawmakers to work together on increased gun safety measures since the May 2019 mass shooting in Virginia Beach.

“We lose too many Virginians to gun violence, and it is past time we took bold, meaningful action to make our communities safer,” said Northam in a press statement last Friday.

HB 2 requires background checks on all firearm sales in Virginia and directs the Virginia State Police to establish a process for sellers to obtain a background check from a licensed firearms dealer and makes it a class 1 misdemeanor to buy or sell firearms without a background check. The bill was identical to SB 70 and was passed by the House and Senate in late March.

HB 9 requires all legal owners of firearms to report the loss or theft of their firearm to local law enforcement or the Virginia State Police within 48 hours and requires the law enforcement agency to enter the report into the National Crime Information Center. It also establishes a civil penalty for violation of the law of no more than $250 and will take effect July 1, 2020.

HB 1083 provides that any person who recklessly leaves a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger a person under the age of 14 is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and will take effect July 1, 2020.

SB 69, identical to HB 812, reinstates the limits of the purchase of handguns to one per person every 30 days. Exceptions to the limit are licensed firearms dealers, correctional facilities and law enforcement agencies, people replacing lost or stolen handguns and purchases of antique firearms. This is similar to the law that was in place from 1993 until 2012 and goes into effect July 1.

SB 240 allows for a legal mechanism for establishing an Extreme Risk Protective Order to temporarily remove firearms from people that represent a danger to themselves or others and will allow commonwealth’s attorneys and law enforcement to apply to the court for this protective order. Identical to HB 674, it too, becomes law on July 1.

Republicans, including 30th District representative Nick Freitas, haven’t been enthusiastic about the legislation which passed primarily along party lines.

Freitas criticized the new laws in an April 10 tweet.

“Governor Northam just signed five gun control bills into law and plans to sign two more. The arrogance of politicians never ceases to amaze me. Northam enjoys taxpayer-provided security as he signs bills that make it harder for law-abiding citizens to be able to defend themselves,” said Freitas on Twitter.

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