Virginia lawmakers on Tuesday narrowly passed legislation that would redefine “assault firearms” and ban their sale and transfer in the U.S. state as Democrats continue to advocate for a series of gun control measures, Fox News reports.
House Bill 961 expands the definition of an assault weapon and bans anyone from purchasing or selling certain semi-automatic firearms, including AR-15 style rifles.
The vote was close, with a tally of 51-48, The Wall Street Journal reported. State Democrats currently control 55 seats in the chamber. The passage of the bill in the state’s Senate isn’t guaranteed, as Democrats have only a two-seat majority in the 40-seat Senate, meaning they can only afford to lose one vote should all the Republicans oppose the bill.
“This legislation, just like other bills passed by the House this year, is intended to make Virginians safer every day,” House Democrats said in a statement after the vote.
The House of Delegates has passed HB961.
This legislation, just like other bills passed by the House this year, is intended to make Virginians safer every day.@VAHouseDems will continue to listen to the voters' mandate from November to support gun violence prevention efforts.
— VA House Democrats (@VAHouseDems) February 11, 2020
Fox News reports, “Republicans vehemently oppose the bill, and opponents argue it will turn law-abiding gun owners into criminals for having commonly available weapons and accessories.” Seven states, including California and New York, already have laws in place banning assault-style weapons.
“If you’ve ever said, ‘I’m for the Second Amendment,’ this bill will infringe on it,” GOP Del. Nick Rush said on the House floor Tuesday.
“And just like that, Virginia House Democrats vote to make millions of Virginians surrender their property or become criminals,” tweeted Republican Del. Dave LaRock. “If the Senate goes along with this nonsense, the Governor will sign it, and then AG Herring will spend YOUR $$$ to defend this unconstitutional overreach.”
Supporters of the bill say the proposed legislation is a response to mass shootings.
Democrats have made gun control the cornerstone of this year’s legislative session after capturing a full majority for the first time in two decades.
Over 80 Virginia counties have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” amid the gun control proposals, and some sheriffs promised to refuse enforcing the new laws.