Virginia lawmakers look to extend gun ban around state Capitol

After successfully passing a long list of gun control measures last year, Democrats in Virginia’s General Assembly are once again working to advance a number of bills related to firearms.

One piece of legislation being considered by the House of Delegates would expand and toughen a gun ban that is currently in effect at the state Capitol building.

Under the bill, the ban would also apply to Capitol Square and surrounding streets and sidewalks that lawmakers use.

Democratic Del. Mark Levine, whose district includes parts of Arlington, Fairfax and Alexandria, lobbied for the bill, citing the issue of armed protesters.

“They don’t have a right to try to intimidate us into voting the way they want using guns,” Levine said. “If there are no guns available, then both sides can exercise their First Amendment rights in the American tradition.”

In a contentious party-line vote last year, lawmakers approved the rule prohibiting anyone from bringing a gun into the state Capitol building.

Levine noted that his legislation “does not apply to any law enforcement officer, authorized security personnel or active military personnel.”

The Virginia House passed a separate bill that would ban plastic firearms made with 3D printers that are not detectable by screening devices at airports.

Another measure approved by the House would give police more time to conduct background checks on gun purchases.

“Virginia law enforcement officials only have three days to complete the check, and if the background check isn’t completed in time, dealers are allowed to sell the firearm anyway,” said Democratic Del. Alfonso Lopez, whose district includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax.

The bill would increase that maximum window of time from three business days to five.

“If a dealer who has otherwise fulfilled all requirements is told by the State Police that a response will not be available by the end of the dealer’s fifth business day, the dealer may complete the sale or transfer without being deemed in violation,” according to the legislation.

After the 2020 legislative session, Gov. Ralph Northam signed bills that established universal background checks on gun purchases, a red flag law allowing authorities to temporarily take guns away from people deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others, and a rule that limits handgun purchases to one a month.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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