04 December 2019

Proposed Firearms Laws (Virginia) - Magazines and Triggers

Day four (part one) of looking at the bills which several members of the Virginia General Assembly have proposed become laws restricting firearm ownership and use. From the Senate there are Bills 12141618, and 22 from Senator Saslaw; 13 and 15 (Senator Ebbin); 35 (Senator Surovell); 51 (Senator Spruill); 67 (Senator McClellan); 69 (Senator Locke); & 70 and 71 (Senator Lucas).  From the House there are Bills 2 (Delegate Plum) and 9 (Delegate Bourne). As stated previously, I know that's a ton of bills; I expect many to fail, get changed, get merged, etc. Generally, I would wait until the actual laws have been passed. However, because of the great amount of interest I'm going to look at these as they are in their larval bill state.

Non-Standard Magazines:

As most everyone knows, standard magazine size for most magazine fed rifles is 20 rounds (old school) or 30 rounds. Pistol magazines typically hold at least 12 rounds. The good news is that if you already own standard magazines you can keep them. The bad news is that if you want new ones you will have to travel to Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, or North Carolina to buy them.

SB16, introduced by Senator Saslow, creates a new statute, § 18.2-308.9, which will limit the sale of magazines in Virginia to the non-standard 10 round capacity. It will be a class 1 misdemeanor (up to 12 months in jail). It also illegalizes "importing" such magazines, but that's not defined and in context within the statute the meaning would have something to do with bringing them in to give to another (noscitur a sociis). Buying standard magazines for ones self and returning to the Commonwealth would appear to be legal.

COMMENT:  Yes, I know that a judge in California has ruled the limitation to the non-standard ten round magazine is unconstitutional. However, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reigns over those of us in Virginia, has held that the limit is constitutional. It's not the sharpest opinion legally - relying a great deal on emotional appeals instead of legal analysis - and relies to some extent on the rather tenuous idea that a mass shooter will be taken down when he pauses to reload and therefore a ten round magazine will provide more such opportunities when a mass shooting is in progress. It is, of course, judged under an intermediate standard leaning toward rational basis. 

To be honest, the federal appellate courts have shown themselves over and over again hostile to asserted rights under the 2nd Amendment. I fully expect the decision by the California judge to be overturned by the 9th Circuit. Short of some sort of ruling by the US Supreme Court that these sort of cases should be subject to strict scrutiny, do not expect this law to be overturned on constitutional grounds.

Trigger Activators:

SB14, proposed by Senator Saslow, would make it a class a class 6 felony (up to 5 year in prison) to possess a device that will enable a firearm to fire a burst, which means it could fire more than one round per trigger squeeze without becoming fully automatic.

More Posts about the Firearm Proposals

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