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Is Virginia's One-Handgun-a-Month Law Constitutional?

By: Ashleigh Meyer

Several gun rights activist groups have banded together to block the implementation of a Virginia gun measure set to take effect in July.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) has joined four other organizations in a lawsuit against the state, arguing that Northam’s “one-handgun-a-month” law is a violation of Constitutional rights. The trial, set for June 25, comes just one week before the measure is set to become active.

The new measure isn’t new at all, but is actually a resurrection of a 1993 law, implemented under Gov. Wilder; it was repealed by Bob McDonnel in 2012. When first passed, the law was said to be designed to reduce the number of illegally possessed weapons in the state, and make it more difficult for criminals to engage in unlawful gun acquisition (straw purchasing), and trafficking through Virginia. Guns were being purchased illegally in VA and then taken to more restrictive northern states, particularly New York.

The NRA analyzed multiple New York-focused ATF studies before and after the law was repealed, and found that there was little change in the number of Virginia-purchased guns illegally circulating through New York.

The NRA reported:

“In the three years prior to repeal (2009-11), a total of 1265 firearms recovered in New York were traced to Virginia. In the three years following repeal (2013-15), a total of 1259 firearms recovered in New York were traced to Virginia.”
The numbers have remained steadfast ever since. The VCDL lawsuit argues that gun trafficking and straw purchasing is already illegal and carries heavy penalties for violation. Additionally, and possibly more compelling, they argue that we don’t limit the frequency of other Constitutional freedoms.

Lawyers for the case explain:

“It would be unfathomable if the General Assembly attempted to place limits on how many times per week the newspaper could be published, how many abortions a woman could receive in a decade, or how many times a court-appointed criminal defense lawyer could be appointed for an indigent defendant facing jailable offenses during a lifetime.”

As it currently stands, violators of the one-handgun-a-month law could find themselves subject to a Class I misdemeanor, which carries a $2,500 fine or up to 12 months in jail. Law enforcement officers, concealed carry permit holders, and a select few others are exempt under the law, which also does not apply to private sales.

Ashleigh Meyer is a Conservative political analyst and professional writer from rural Virginia.

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