On a day when Vice President Joe Biden was in town pushing the White House’s proposed federal gun control measures, a Virginia legislative committee delivered an in-your-face message to the feds:
Not on our turf.
In the General Assembly Building, blocks away from where Biden spoke Friday, the House of Delegates’ Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee approved a bill (HB2340) that would prohibit state agencies and employees from assisting federal authorities in enforcing new restrictions on gun ownership or the private transfer of guns and ammunition.
The legislation is aimed squarely at President Barack Obama’s proposals – prompted by last month’s school massacre in Connecticut – to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and require background checks for all gun sales, including private transactions.
The measure, introduced by Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William County, was approved on a 15-7 party-line vote by the Republican-controlled committee after a brief debate.
It advances to the House floor.
Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County, said the bill is based on the principle that “no employee of the commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions should help the federal government tread upon our long-held belief that Second Amendment rights are highly individualized and very important.”
Democrats on the panel warned that the measure could inhibit investigations of gun trafficking and incidents such as the Connecticut school shooting. They also suggested that it could put federal grants at risk.
Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, expressed concern that the measure might interfere with the ability of state and local police to participate in joint task forces with federal law enforcement agencies.
For at least one gun enthusiast, the measure has a laudable intent that doesn’t go far enough.
“If we don’t put some teeth into it, it’ll be useless,” Mike McHugh of the Virginia Gun Owners Coalition told the committee. “I think we’re coming to a point in this country where the states are going to have to finally decide – and I hope it doesn’t end up like years ago – that we’re going to have to face down Barack Obama’s federal plantation.”
Asked what sort of “teeth” he meant, McHugh cited a proposed measure in Texas that would “put in jail any federal officer that dared to violate the sacred soil of Texas.”
Del. Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington County, suggested that the Virginia measure amounts to a nullification of federal law, which would be unconstitutional.
“I’m not aware of any successful nullification since Appomattox,” Gilbert replied. “It is not a nullification bill.”
Bill Sizemore, 804-697-1560, email@example.com