Virginia Democrats walk back gun control plan after massive backlash from gun owners 'Gun owners are tired of this'
Democrats will assume control of the Virginia General Assembly next year, and lawmakers quickly began submitting gun control bills that previously had little-to-no chance of passage. Gun-rights advocates statewide responded by forming "sanctuary" counties in which enforcement of new gun control laws would be de-emphasized or neglected altogether.
Monday, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and incoming Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said they were adding a "grandfather clause" into the proposed assault weapon ban, which would allow gun owners to keep weapons under the policy that were already legally owned — as long as they register them.
"I'm not going to lock up a large part of Virginia," Saslaw told the Virginia Mercury, acknowledging that a grandfather clause would "make sense."
Saslaw and Northam only backtracked after more than three dozen counties declared "sanctuary" status in protest of the bills. From the Mercury:
But the proposed ban on particular types of firearms — and the prospect of criminal charges for gun owners who didn't give them up — seemed to stoke the strongest outrage in the 40-plus rural localities that have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries within the past few weeks. Of the dozens of bills already filed for the session that begins in January, Saslaw's assault weapon bill was the most-read, according to the state's online legislative system.
Some Democrats had already suggested that the assault weapon bill drawing the most attention may not turn out to be the final product.
"I think what's filed may not necessarily be what's passed," incoming House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, told reporters last week at a Virginia Press Association event.
Still, gun-rights advocates in Virginia are not relaxing after this apparent victory. They know that Democrats will continue to use their newly won legislative control to push restrictions on Second Amendment rights.
"We've been down this compromise road and their version of a compromise is they never give up anything," said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. "We are expected to give up something every time and we're not doing it anymore. I think gun owners are tired of this and they're gonna stand up and fight this stuff."