State Sen. Jennifer B. Boysko (D-33) and Del. Wendy W. Gooditis (D-10) came back from Richmond for a standing-room-only town hall in Leesburg Saturday, Jan. 25, one which was mostly dominated by talk about
Both sides of the Leesburg Town Council chamber were packed with people—on one side, holding signs in support of creating a driver privilege card conferring the same privileges as a typical driver’s license and requiring the same driving exam, but which does not function as a voter ID.
On the other side and throughout the room, people had come to speak against new gun laws moving through the General Assembly this year. Retired law enforcement officer Mike Taylor said, like many retiring cops, he bought his service weapon upon retiring.
“The laws that you are proposing passing are going to make my firearm an assault weapon… So you’re going to make me a felon for carrying the firearm that I carried for 26 years on the job,” Taylor said. He also said he has twice had to evacuate his family due to threats from a person he arrested: “If this idiot red flags me, you’ve taken away the ability for me and my family to protect our home, and again, I become another criminal, you subjugate my rights.”
Two laws in particular have drawn the ire of guns rights activists this year. One would expand the definition of an “assault firearm” under state law and makes it a Class 6 felony to import, sell, transfer, manufacture, purchase, possess or transport one.
The bill would define an assault firearm as a semi-automatic pistol or rifle with a fixed magazine capacity of more than 10 rounds, or that accepts a detachable magazine, and that meets one of a number of other characteristics, such as a folding stock, grenade launcher, or silencer. It also makes it a misdemeanor to import or sell any magazine designed to hold more than 10 rounds.
The senate version of that bill died in committee, removed at the request of its patron; the House version remains in committee.
Another bill, proposing a “red flag” law, would allow law enforcement to temporarily take firearms from a person deemed a threat to themselves or others. A commonwealth’s attorney or law-enforcement officer would apply to a judge or magistrate for an emergency order allowing a warrant to confiscate the guns; a circuit court hearing would be required within 14 days. That bill has passed the Senate, 21-19, a party-line vote.
Opponents of those bills say they take away people’s Second Amendment rights without due process. Mike De La Crus presented Boysko and Gooditis with another red flag—the flag of the former Soviet Union.
“I do hope you enjoy hanging them in your offices or displaying them with pride, because this is scary, this is what this will take our country to,” De La Cruz said.
And other warned of violent resistance to the law.
“What I’m really worried about is the immoral use of force where you’re sending a law enforcement officer to take a gun from someone who’s never been convicted of a crime, not once, they never had their day in court,” said one person. “And you’re going to risk them getting shot, because I don’t know about you, but I am not going to comply, and I think most Virginians aren’t going to comply.”
But the bills’ supporters, including Boysko and Gooditis,
say they’re about keeping people safe. Gooditis told a story that she told
often on the campaign trail, about her brother, who suffered from
post-traumatic stress disorder after being sexually abused as a child. She said
that one time, her parents called police to their house, where her brother was
living, because he was drinking and threatening suicide.
“The deputies spent an hour with him, talking him down,” Gooditis said. “At the end of that hour they gave the firearm back, because that’s the law. And yes, my brother shot himself with that firearm. Red flag laws have more to do with protecting people who are suicidal, and they are effective in the states that have passed them for this reason.”
“We will continue this conversation for many months, I’m certain,” Boysko said. “I promise you that I will continue to dialogue with you. I may not agree with you, I may come down on the other side, but I will always respect your right to have the conversation and share with me.”