Va. Senate Democrats push for new safety bills to prioritize gun violence prevention

Virginia Senate Democrats are pushing for several gun safety bills in the 2023 General Assembly session after a series of shootings across the state in recent months.

“We’re here to talk about [the] gun violence epidemic and solutions that the Senate Democrats are putting forward this session, from banning the sale of military weapons to stopping dangerous individuals from acquiring firearms,” said Sen. Creigh Deeds at a press conference Friday.

The bills come after several shootings across the state in recent months, including an incident involving a six-year-old who police said intentionally shot his teacher in Newport News.

The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus has laid out 10 bills related to preventing gun violence, including a bill that would require gun owners to lock up their firearms when children are present.

“This bill would not only stop tragedies like we saw in Newport News, but will prevent other tragedies, including gun accidents, youth suicide and school shootings,” said Sen. Jennifer Boysko, who is sponsoring the legislation.

Another piece of legislation would ban the purchase and manufacture of assault style weapons that were made after a certain date. The bill would not require the confiscation of guns already in circulation.

“It effectively bans the purchase of firearms manufactured after the effective date of legislation,” said Deeds, who introduced the bill. “So, a lot of people will not be pleased … but it’s designed to slow the spread of these firearms on the street.”

Sen. Adam Ebbin also introduced a bill that would make it illegal to sell parts of a gun without serial numbers, to try to prevent the creation of “ghost guns.”

“It fixes a loophole,” Ebbin said. “Manufacturers are currently required to put a serial number on finished [firearms], but not on individual parts and the industry, the industry of these ghost guns intentionally targets people who wouldn’t even pass a background check.”

He also is sponsoring a ban on carrying assault style weapons in public.

Sen. Dave Marsden also spoke about his bill that would create a civil penalty for leaving a gun in a car that is not locked in a container or compartment.

“We are arming the people that are committing violent acts in our community,” Marsden said. “We have films of young people walking down the street, shaking car doors looking for entry into the vehicle. And I’m realistic, I think this is almost criminal behavior, but I have written this bill to the traffic code in Virginia, not the criminal code, that to leave a gun in an unattended vehicle is a $500 fine with the ability to have your car towed.”

State Senate Democrats say the bills are common sense firearm safety laws to address the gun violence epidemic.

Virginia Republicans were critical of one of the bills, writing about Sen. Jennifer Boysko’s bill on Friday: “Democrats’ restrictions will only make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to protect their property and families.”

Stetson Miller

Stetson Miller is an anchor and reporter for WTOP. He has worked in TV newsrooms for the last several years in New York, Baltimore, Washington and Charleston, SC.

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