Among the several gun control measures being shepherded through the Virginia legislature is SB 240, the so-called "red-flag" law. The bill would require law enforcement to confiscate guns, circumventing the normal judicial due process required to limit constitutionally protected rights, upon belief that an individual is a danger to himself or others. This includes those without criminal records: The burden of proof would be on them to prove they are not a danger, rather than on the government to initiate the confiscation order. The bill passed the state Senate 21-19 last week.
What about those with a substantial criminal record? Democrats would work assiduously to ensure they don't have guns, right? Actually, some of the same Democrat lawmakers are working overtime to restore gun rights to some of those people.
Virginia attorney Hans Bader warns that prominent Democrats in both houses of the legislature are supporting HB 274, a bill that raises the age for when a juvenile criminal conviction triggers a ban on that individual owning or transporting firearms.
Under current Virginia law, juveniles may be tried as adults for violent offenses beginning at age 14. This bill will would raise the age to 16. In addition, under current law (§18.2-308.2(A)), it is prohibited for "any person adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile 14 years of age or older at the time of the offense of murder in violation of § 18.2-31 or 18.2-32, kidnapping in violation of § 18.2-47, robbery by the threat or presentation of firearms in violation of § 18.2-58, or rape in violation of § 18.2-61 … to knowingly and intentionally possess or transport any firearm or ammunition for a firearm."
This bill would change the age threshold from 14 to 16, meaning that anyone convicted of a violent murder under the age of 16 would still be able to legally possess a firearm.
This statute is specifically designed for the worst juvenile offenders who have already used firearms in the furtherance of the most heinous crimes. These are not crimes of violating public order or simple drug possession. Yet Democrats, led by freshman Delegate Joshua Cole (D-Fredericksburg), are specifically targeting these individuals for restoration of gun rights, even after they have been duly convicted for the most high-level crimes.
The bill has attracted six other House sponsors. The two Senate co-sponsors are Jennifer McClellan and Joseph D. Morrissey. Those two senators just voted for the red-flag law to confiscate firearms of those who have never been convicted of any crime without the traditional due process and without the opportunity to initially plead their case before a judge.
This bill greenlighting gun ownership for some who murder or rape as teenagers was introduced as a flurry of other bills are winding through the legislature to weaken criminal justice laws. Earlier this month, two Senate committees passed a "geriatric prisoners conditional release" bill, allowing for the release of all but a few of the most violent murderers and gun felons once they reach the age of 50 or 55, depending on how much time they have served. Legislators seem to think 50-year-old murderers are old enough for "geriatric" compassionate release, but 14- to 16-year-old murderers aren't old enough for meaningful punishment, much less a ban on gun ownership.
As state Democrats moved ahead with a series of gun control bills, Senate Democrat Leader Dick Saslaw said in a statement, "Today, we have laid the foundation to ensure that Virginia is a place where we are safe in our workplace, our children are safe at school, we are safe where we choose to worship, and that all of us are safe at home and in our communities."
The question lawmakers will have to grapple with in the coming years is how they can achieve public safety when violent criminals are released with their gun rights restored, while the rest of the citizens are left with diminishing options to protect themselves.