Virginia lawmakers could soon consider legislation seeking to repeal prohibitions on where firearms can be carried in the Commonwealth under proposals pre-filed by Republican legislators earlier this month.
House Bill 1428, pre-filed by Republican Del. Dave LaRock and state Sens. Amanda Chase and Frank M. Ruff, seeks to repeal an existing Virginia law that makes it unlawful for individuals to carry certain loaded semi-automatic center-fire rifles, pistols or shotguns on public streets, roads, alleys, sidewalks, public right-of-ways, public parks or “any other place of whatever nature that is open to the public” in certain parts of the state.
The existing law applies to the cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond and Virginia Beach and the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Henrico, Loudoun and Prince William. The provisions in the law do not apply to law enforcement officers and licensed security guards, people with a valid concealed handgun permit or those engaged in lawful hunting or recreational shooting at established ranges.
LaRock also pre-filed House Bill 1427 earlier this month, which would remove a locality’s authority to prohibit the possession or carrying firearms in public parks and community centers owned by the locality, as well as public streets, alleys and sidewalks.
The bills come a few months after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which ruled New York’s concealed carry law was unconstitutional. In a statement, LaRock argued passage of his proposed repeals “would be especially appropriate considering the Bruen decision.”
“Both of these current Virginia laws have the effect of making people less safe by depriving them of the right and ability to defend themselves without unnecessary government interference,” LaRock said.
Gun control advocates largely disagree, arguing prohibiting guns in certain locations is an important step to prevent gun violence.
Virginia law also prohibits the possession of firearms – even by concealed handgun permit holders – within 40 feet of polling locations, 40 feet of buildings where electoral boards meet, in the Capitol of Virginia, in a courthouse, airport terminal and on daycare or preschool property.
These laws earned Virginia a “B” ranking on the Giffords Law Center annual report card in 2021 alongside states like Rhode Island, Delaware, Oregon and Washington. An assessment by the Giffords Law Center found states that received an “F” grade saw 61% higher homicide rates than states with “A” or “B” grades, and states with the highest rates of gun deaths among children and teens received an “F” grade for their gun laws.
“The gun lobby has claimed that ‘gun-free zones’ invite mass shootings, but this claim has been thoroughly debunked,” according to the Giffords Law Center. “Since 1966, the overwhelming majority—nearly 90%—of all mass shootings resulting in six or more deaths have occurred wholly or partly in locations where civilian guns were allowed or there was armed security or law enforcement present.”
Both of LaRock’s bills have yet to receive a committee assignment in the politically-divided General Assembly. Heading into the 2023 session, Republicans hold a slim majority in the House of Delegates, while Democrats hold a narrow majority in the state Senate.
Lawmakers will convene the 2023 session Jan. 11.