These Virginia Gun Laws Go Into Effect July 1 Laws focused on background checks, "red flag laws" and handgun limits take effect in Virginia on Wednesday.
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NPR logo These Virginia Gun Laws Go Into Effect July 1

These Virginia Gun Laws Go Into Effect July 1

Gun control laws passed by the Democratic-led Virginia state legislature go into effect on July 1. Tyrone Turner/WAMU hide caption

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Tyrone Turner/WAMU

Gun control laws passed by the Democratic-led Virginia state legislature go into effect tomorrow, after the topic dominated political debates in the commonwealth over the last year.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed the measures into law in April as part of a sweeping effort to end gun violence in the wake of the mass shooting last year in Virginia Beach.

Republicans in the minority, along with the Virginia Citizens Defense League, argued that bills limiting how many guns a person can buy and what they can do with them were unconstitutional and wouldn't stop mass shootings.

The following laws go into effect beginning July 1, 2020:

Background Checks

Background checks are required on all firearm sales in the state. Neither a permit nor registration were previously required when buying a handgun from a private seller if both parties were Virginia residents, a loophole this legislation closes. The law is facing a legal challenge in the Lynchburg Circuit Court by the Virginia Citizens Defense League and other plaintiffs. According to the Associated Press, they allege that the new law is "a grossly overreaching infringement on the right of Virginians to keep and bear arms."

Red Flag Law

The "Extreme Risk Protective Order" establishes a way for law enforcement to temporarily separate a person from their guns if they could become a danger to themselves or others. You can learn more about so-called "red flag laws" here. People with a protective order against them will be barred from purchasing a firearm.

Handgun Limits

After facing a legal challenge in circuit court, a 2012 law is back, banning the purchase of more than one handgun per month and making the penalty a Class 1 misdemeanor. A lawsuit was filed against Virginia State Police Superintendent Gary Settle to remove the limit, and was defeated in the Goochland Circuit Court. According to the suit, the new law infringed on the "constitutionally protected right to obtain firearms" by having the plaintiff "engage in the same often delayed and time-consuming background check," among other things.

Lost and Stolen Guns

Gun owners must report their lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement within 48 hours or face a civil penalty of a fine up to $250.

Children and Access to Guns

The penalty for recklessly leaving an unsecured or loaded firearm in the presence of a child under the age of 14 is now a Class 1 misdemeanor. The previous charge was a Class 3 misdemeanor. For Class 1 misdemeanors, those convicted face confinement in jail up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $2,500, up from a maximum of $500 previously.

Local Government Can Restrict Guns

City councils and boards of supervisors may ban guns and ammunition in government buildings and public areas being used during permitted and public events. The city of Alexandria became the first municipality to enact an ordinance to limit firearms on city property.

A proposed ban on assault-style rifles did not pass the legislature.

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