Saying he hopes to find “middle ground” on guns, Gov. Ralph Northam said Friday that he’ll push for legislation that would let authorities temporarily take guns away from people who threaten to hurt others or themselves.
At a news conference in Richmond, Northam reiterated his support for several gun control measures, including universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and reinstatement of Virginia’s former one-handgun-a-month law.
Last year, General Assembly Republicans killed most of Northam’s gun proposals shortly after he took office. Many will likely be voted down again in the legislative session that starts next week.
But the legislation for risk protective orders — an idea that gained bipartisan support after last year’s school shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida — will be new for the 2019 session.
“It shouldn’t be a partisan issue to want to make sure that weapons are not in the hands of people who pose a threat,” Northam said.
Democrats tried to bring a similar proposal to a vote in the House of Delegates late in the 2018 session. House Republicans said the rules prohibited them from considering the bill after the crossover deadline, but said the idea of gun restraining orders would be part of an “ongoing discussion” about intervention.
Last year’s bill — sponsored by Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Fairfax — would have let judges issue temporary warrants to take guns away from someone who poses a “substantial risk” of hurting themselves or others. The text of the 2019 legislation was not available Friday.
“This bill, which mirrors legislative steps taken in numerous states from Florida to California, would enable family and friends to stop — with plenty of due process and respect for Second Amendment rights — an individual from committing gun violence before a single shot is fired,” Sullivan said in a news release from the governor’s office.
Last month, a school safety commission President Donald Trump convened after the Parkland shooting encouraged states to adopt risk protection laws that also respect gun rights and due process.
Already, extreme risk protection order laws are on the books in 13 states, the federal report said. Eight of those states passed the laws after Parkland.
House Republican leaders could not immediately be reached for comment.
The governor said he will push for legislation to require gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm to law enforcement within 24 hours of discovering it’s missing. Another Northam-backed proposal would create stricter punishments for adults who leave loaded guns where children can get them.
“Responsible adults lock up their guns,” Northam said. “Irresponsible ones should face felony penalties.”
Last year, Northam said, Virginia reported 1,028 gun-related deaths, including 663 suicides.
In the same period, 956 people died on the state’s highways.
Northam told reporters he hasn’t met with Republican lawmakers to discuss his gun proposals but plans to do so when they return to Richmond.
“I think there’ll be some that will be willing to work with me,” Northam said.