The rise in gun-related deaths has led policymakers, organizers, concerned citizens, and legislators to consider their position on gun ownership and, in some cases, come together to take legislative action. Indeed, that’s exactly what’s happening in Virginia, where SB 16 has been prefiled in preparation for the 2020 legislative session. The bill, officially named, “SB 16 Assault firearms and certain firearm magazines; prohibiting sale, transport, etc., penalties,” is contentious, to say the least. The following provides an overview of SB 16 and its potential effects if signed into legislation in our state–
SB 16: A Basic Overview
Details about SB 16 can be found online through Virginia’s Legislative Information System. As explained by the summary provided on SB 16 Assault firearms and certain firearm magazines; prohibiting sale, transport, etc., penalties, the bill, if passed, would have the following effects:
- Expanded definition of “assault firearm.” Section 18.2-303.8 of the proposed legislation offers a new definition for the term “assault firearm.” The definition is expanded to include six specific weapon types, including certain semi-automatic center-fire rifles and semi-automatic center-fire pistols, certain shotguns with revolving cylinders, and any part or combination of parts designed to convert or modify a firearm into an assault firearm.
- New prohibitions. The new legislation, if passed, will prohibit any person from selling, importing, transferring, manufacturing, purchasing, possessing, or transporting an assault firearm. A violation of this prohibition would be classified as a Class 6 felony which carries a maximum penalty of one to five years in prison or up to 12 months jail time with up to a $2,500.00 fine.
- Prohibitions for dealers. In addition to preventing any person from selling, manufacturing, possessing, or transferring an assault firearm, the new legislation would also prohibit dealers from renting, selling, trading, or transferring an assault firearm to any other person.
- Prohibition on certain shotguns. In addition to the above, the legislation would also include a ban on carrying shotguns with magazines designed to hold more than seven rounds in public places.
While the provisions of the bill are numerous and varied, in sum, officials on both sides of the aisle are referring to the legislation as an “assault weapons ban,” which it is.
What About Current Owners of “Assault” Weapons Under New Definitions?
The legislation is clear in its intent to prohibit the sale, transfer, and ownership of assault weapons, per the new definition of assault weapon. To be sure, the proposed law clearly reads:
“It is unlawful for any person to import, sell, manufacture, purchase, possess, or transport an assault firearm.”
This provision has garnered heavy criticism from opponents to the legislation, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), who allege that the legislation does not ‘grandfather’ in current owners, and is instead intended to be a firearms ‘confiscation’ that would force current lawful gun owners to dispose themselves of their firearms or face a felony conviction. That being said, whether or not an actual campaign to actively confiscate firearms would follow passage of the legislation is unclear.
Is SB 16 Likely to Pass?
Whether or not SB 16 will actually pass General Assembly is entirely unclear at this point; currently the bill has been referred by the Senate to the Committee on the Judiciary. That being said, small towns where worried gun owners are residents are already preparing for the worse and attempting to get out ahead of the legislation by urging local governments to declare themselves as “Second Amendment sanctuary cities.” Essentially, this means that local government officials in such ‘sanctuary’ cities would not use any local resources to enforce or prosecute the assault weapons ban, should it go into effect.
Learn More About Weapons Laws and Violations Today
At the office of Del Rio Law, PLLC, our experienced Richmond criminal defense attorney is tracking SB 16. As a law firm that works on weapons crimes defense cases, our lawyer is prepared to answer any questions that you have about gun offenses and weapons-involved crimes, including potential penalties. Additionally, should the proposed legislation pass and you are a current gun owner, our law firm can help you to understand your rights under the new law, what you’ll need to do to remain in compliance with the law, and what may happen should you choose to violate the law.
If you have questions about SB 16, current gun laws in our state, or if you are facing criminal charges for a gun offense or another weapons offense, please reach out to Attorney Abraham Del Rio III at Del Rio Law, PLLC. Our firm has years of experience and is committed to protecting our clients’ best interests and rights.