Gun Safety Bills Head to Governor’s Desk

Gun Safety Bills Head to Governor’s Desk

Rally cry in Richmond: ‘Sign the Bills’

Official Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R)

Official Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R)

Two Virginia Democratic state legislators representing constituents in Fairfax County, Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D38) and Del. Marcus D. Simon (D13), spoke at the "Don't Veto Our Safety" rally held in Richmond Saturday, Feb. 24. They and members of the coalition of advocacy groups who organized the rally believe gun safety bills introduced in the 2024 session will prevent gun injuries and deaths. They urged Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin to "sign the bills" that passed in the Senate and House of Delegates and are heading to his desk. 

“If you want to have a gun in your house, you need to store it in a child-proof container.”

— Del. Marcus Simon

In a statement, Christian Martinez, Youngkin's spokesperson, said that the governor would review any legislation that came to his desk. “But as he reiterated during his State of the Commonwealth address, Virginia's gun laws are already among the toughest in the nation.”

Every bill that passes the Senate and House of Delegates before it becomes law must be presented to the Governor, according to the Constitution of Virginia, Article V. Executive. The Governor will have seven days to act on a bill after it is presented to him. He has three options: sign the bill, and it becomes law; veto it (and may recommend amendments), in which case a two-thirds majority of each house is required to override the veto; or not act on the bill, and it becomes law. 

Following last November's elections, Democrats took control of the General Assembly for Youngkin's final two years. The Democrats' slim majority in each of the two chambers, however, makes it unlikely that they would have the numbers to overturn a Youngkin veto; 27 votes in the Senate and 67 in the House to override a veto.

Boysko introduced the gun safety bill SB 368. It narrowly passed both houses and did so by party lines: House 51-Y 49-N and Senate (21-Y 19-N). It addresses the storage of firearms where minors or persons prohibited from possessing them are present.

Boysko wrote in her “Boysko Bulletin, released Sunday, Feb. 25, that she sent a clear message to the Governor telling him to sign, not veto, the gun safety legislation the General Assembly has passed. According to Boysko, guns are the number one cause of death for children and teens, including suicides, school shootings, accidental shootings, and other tragedies. Virginia offers a tax credit of up to $300 to purchase a gun safe. “I hope that Governor Youngkin will do the right thing for our communities and sign the bill,” wrote Boysko.

Simon said at the rally that they have spoken to Republicans about gun laws, and they answer that it’s “hopeless” and “essentially, there is nothing we can do as gun laws don't work. “I'm here to tell you all [that] it is not hopeless; we can do something; we are not helpless. We have things that we can do to make our community safer.” Holding up a child-proof medicine container, Simon said, “If you want to have a gun in your house, you need to store it in a child-proof container.”

Simon is the chief patron of HB 183  "Firearms; storage in residence where minor or person prohibited from possessing is present, penalty," which passed a party-line vote of (51-Y 49-N in the Democratic-controlled House on Feb. 1. The Senate reported from the Courts of Justice with amendments (8-Y 5-N) and further action is pending as of Monday, Feb. 26. Simon said if Virginia is not going to ban assault weapons, let’s not carry assault weapons on the streets and sidewalks, referencing HB 175, which he introduced, and its companion bill in the Senate, SB 99, introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D39).

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said, “While VCDL supports the right of gun-control proponents to rally, the bills they want signed into law will not lower violent crime at all.” The Virginia Citizens Defense League is a non-profit organization dedicated to “advancing the fundamental human right of all Virginians to keep and bear arms.”

According to Van Cleave, that is because the bills negatively affect lawful gun owners while having little or no effect on violent criminals. “That’s like trying to eradicate drunk driving by penalizing sober drivers or trying to reduce traffic fatalities by prohibiting the use of seatbelts,” Van Cleave wrote.

Another gun safety bill headed to the Governor’s desk is HB 498, which is the school board policy and parental notification of safe household firearms storage responsibility. Del. Laura Jane Cohen (D15) introduced HB 498. It passed the House (54-Y 45-N), with three Republicans voting yes. HB 498 passed the Senate (22-Y 17-N), with Republican J.D. “Danny” Diggs (R24) voting yes.

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D39) introduced SB 99, assault firearms; carrying in public areas prohibited, that will be presented to the Governor as of Monday, Feb. 26. It passed the Senate (21-Y 19-N), the House (52-Y 48-N), and the House substitute agreed upon by the Senate (21-Y 18-N).

Van Cleave said that most of the gun bills passed by the General Assembly  are unconstitutional, as confirmed by the recent U.S. Supreme Court case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association (NYSRPA) v. Bruen (2022).  

The 2024 Virginia General Assembly Session is scheduled to finish or adjourn sine die on Saturday, March 9, 2024.