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Northam signs gun-control bills into law

Universal background checks, limiting handgun purchases to once a month and reporting lost or stolen firearms and are all now state law.

RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Ralph Northam on Friday signed into law sweeping legislation to increase gun safety restrictions in the Commonwealth.

In a landmark move, Northam signed bills proposing universal background checks, child restrictions on access to guns, limits on handgun purchases per month, reporting lost or stolen firearms and an extreme risk protective order.

Gun control was and is still a popular point of debate in Virginia, but much of the conversation has been diluted in recent months since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Even in the midst of the outbreak, state Democrats are still working to fulfill high-profile action on gun control which they promised -- a singular mission that was highly contested by Republicans and many Virginians.

In response to the proposed changes, many localities passed resolutions to become Second Amendment sanctuaries, a move that's intended to protect the constitutional right to bear arms.

RELATED: Second Amendment Sanctuaries: Do they carry any weight?

Below are explanations of the bills that Northam signed into law:

  • Senate Bill 70 and House Bill 2 require background checks on all firearm sales in Virginia, which will prevent guns from ending up in dangerous hands.
  • Senate Bill 240 and House Bill 674 establish an Extreme Risk Protective Order, which creates a legal mechanism for law enforcement to temporarily separate a person from their firearms when they represent a danger to themselves or others. Virginia is now among 19 other states and the District of Columbia in enacting this type of law.
  • Senate Bill 69 and House Bill 812 reinstate Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month rule to help curtail stockpiling of firearms and trafficking.
  • House Bill 9 requires gun owners to report their lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement within 48 hours or face a civil penalty.
  • House Bill 1083 prevents children from accessing firearms by increasing the penalty for recklessly leaving firearms in their presence.

These policy changes come as no surprise after Democrats took over the majority of the statehouse last November.

The 2020 General Assembly session was adjourned in March. State lawmakers will reconvene on April 22. Read more on the new gun control laws here.

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