While Governor Northam’s attempt to ram an assault firearms ban through the legislature was defeated in the Virginia Senate (at least for the rest of this year), the 2020 session of the Virginia General Assembly produced a number of controversial laws designed to interfere with and restrict your right to keep and bear arms. The worst of them is a red flag law that will permit issuance of “emergency substantial risk orders” – orders that will enable law enforcement authorities to confiscate your firearms without any due process protection.
Imagine the police knocking on your door, demanding that you turn over every firearm you have.
Will you know why this is happening?
Will you know what to do?
Will you know who to call?
Welcome to life in the shadow of Virginia’s new red flag law. Starting on July 1 of this year, anyone can have you disarmed — with no notice/warning — by falsely telling the police or your local Commonwealth Attorney’s office that you are a threat to yourself or to others around you and that you own firearms.
There is no effective deterrent in the new red flag law or in Virginia’s perjury laws to stop the kind of vicious, but baseless falsehoods that will subject you to an emergency substantial risk order seizing your firearms. Anyone who has it out for you (e.g., your hostile ex-spouse, a vindictive former boyfriend or girlfriend, a fearful, gun-hating neighbor, a former employee you terminated) can initiate the red flag process – with no meaningful penalty for lying. Based on a false, but frightening allegation, a magistrate can issue an emergency substantial risk order requiring the police to confiscate your guns. You will lose your firearms to the state, literally, without any warning.
There are three important questions that you should be asking yourself in this situation:
- When your first opportunity to regain possession of your firearms comes up 14 days later in a hearing before a circuit court judge, will you be represented by effective legal counsel?
- Will you have the support of a psychiatrist or psychologist with the gravitas needed to convince a skittish judge that the allegations against you are false and you are a threat to no one?
- Will you be able to raise a constitutional challenge to the new red flag law?
If you haven’t taken steps to prepare for this kind of legal nightmare, you could easily lose your right to possess and use any firearms for many months or longer.
Other bills that have been enacted into law include:
- An amendment to Virginia’s preemption law which allows city and county governments to create their own laws restricting the possession and carry of firearms in local government buildings, public parks, and recreation and community centers, and at or adjacent to certain public events.
- A law prohibiting possession of firearms for as long as a protective order is in effect against you.
- A law prohibiting the purchase of more than one handgun in a 30-day period – but with a potentially useful list of exceptions.
- A law raising the bar with respect to the training required to obtain a concealed carry permit in Virginia.
- A law requiring universal background checks for all firearms sales.
- A law making it a felony to brandish while in a group formed with intent to intimidate another person.
- A law requiring that you report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement.
- A law adding child day care centers and private or religious preschools to Virginia’s list of gun free zones.
- A law limiting who may carry in school zones.
- A law relating to the storage of firearms at day care facilities.
- A law relating to access to firearms by children.
- A law banning possession of bump stocks.
In response to these bills, Attorney Stephen L. Sulzer has developed a new course – “Virginia’s 2020 Gun Control Legislation – Its Legal and Practical Effects on You.” The course will provide a plain-spoken explanation of these new laws and will describe steps you can take to prepare for their legal and practical effects on you as a responsible gun owner.
Attendees will receive a copy of Mr. Sulzer’s PowerPoint presentation along with a useful compilation of the new gun control statutes and related laws needed to understand them.
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