Virginia lawmakers are set to review new gun control legislation. Introduced by Virginia Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, Senate Bill NO. 16 (SB 16) would prohibit the sale, purchase, transport, and possession of assault firearms and certain related magazines. It imposes strict new criminal penalties for violations.
The bill—which is set to be among the more controversial issues in the upcoming legislative session—is supported by key gun control groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety and opposed by important gun rights organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA). Here, our Richmond gun charges defense lawyer seeks to clear up any confusion about the law by explaining what is in Virginia Senate Bill 16 and what it means.
SB 16: An Overview of Virginia’s Proposed Gun Legislation
Prohibition on the Sale, Transport, Purchase and Possession of Assault Firearms and Certain Magazines
You may hear Virginia SB 16 referred to simply as an ‘assault weapons ban’. As drafted, the bill substantially expands the definition of what is classified as an ‘assault weapon’ in the Commonwealth of Virginia and it strictly prohibits the manufacturing, sale, transport, purchase, and possession of these weapons.
For reference, the AR-15, perhaps the most well-known semi-automatic rifle, would be banned under the current bill. Beyond banning assault firearms, the bill would also put restrictions on shotguns with high capacities and ban all firearm magazines that are designed to hold more than ten total rounds of ammunition.
Felony Penalties for Violations of the Law
In its current form, Virginia SB 16 would impose strict felony penalties for individuals who violate the proposed prohibition on assault firearms and high capacity magazines. Indeed, violators could be charged with a class 6 felony for violating the firearm ban and a misdemeanor for violating the magazine ban. Under Virginia law (Code of Virginia § 18.2-10), a class 6 felony is punishable by between one and five years in prison and a $2,500 fine. Of course, being charged with and convicted of a felony firearms offense could have other adverse ramifications as well.
Does SB 16 Include a Grandfather Clause?
There is a lot of confusion around this issue—this is where it is important to mention that SB 16, as currently drafted, may not be in its final form. In November of 2019, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) published an article contesting, among other things, the bill’s lack of a grandfather clause for Virginians who lawfully purchased firearms that would be banned by the bill. It is accurate that no grandfather clause was included in the language of the initial draft of SB 16.
However, on December 9th, 2019, a spokeswoman for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam told reporters that his bill will have “A grandfather clause for individuals who already own assault weapons, with the requirement they register their weapons before the end of a designated grace period.”
Further, when questioned on the issue, lead sponsor Dick Saslaw stated that a grandfather clause would “make sense.” It is likely that the final bill, if passed, will include some form of grandfather clause. Still, it will be critically important to confirm this fact should the bill pass and to carefully examine the specific terms and requirements of such a clause.
SB 16 is Proposed Legislation—Not Yet Law
As of January of 2020, Virginia Senate Bill 16 is simply proposed legislation, not law. According to reporting from LegiScan, the latest action occurred on January 8th, 2020, when SB 16 had its first important hearing before the Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee.
Will SB 16 become law in the Commonwealth of Virginia? It is not clear. Though, as the bill is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw and as Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has publicly expressed his desire to sign new gun control measures in the coming year, it is certainly a possibility.
To be clear, there is also plenty of time for the bill to be re-written or altered. No details currently within the bill should be assumed to be in the final version without confirmation, should the law eventually pass. Our Virginia firearms charge defense lawyer will keep a close watch on this legislation and all other relevant legal and political developments.
Call Our Virginia Gun Charge Defense Attorney for Immediate Assistance
At Ali J. Amirshahi Attorney at Law, PLLC, our Virginia criminal defense lawyer has the skills, training, and tenacity handling complex gun charges. Attorney Amirshahi is well versed in handling all types of firearm cases – possession of firearms by prohibited person in state and federal court, concealed weapons charges, restoration of the right to possess firearms by non-violent felons who have completed probation. With more than two decades of courtroom and trial experience, we handle serious criminal cases. If you need legal advice, guidance or support, please contact us for a free, fully confidential consultation. From our law office in Richmond, we serve communities throughout the region, including in Henrico County, Chesterfield County, Powhatan County, Goochland County, and Charles City County.