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State Update: Illinois, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Make Moves on Gun Laws

By: Teresa Mull

Several states have had action taken on gun laws in recent weeks. Here’s an update of what’s happening across the country:

Gun Bans in Illinois
A list of states contemplating increased gun control would not be complete without Illinois.

“Senate Bill 107, sponsored by Senator Julie Morrison (D-29), would brand many modern semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic handguns, and shotguns commonly owned by law-abiding citizens as ‘assault weapons’ and ban them along with spare parts and accessories,” the NRA reports. “These firearms are commonly owned by law-abiding citizens for various purposes such as self-defense, competitive shooting, recreational shooting, and hunting.”

Pennsylvania Gun Control Advocates Push for More
Anti-gun Pennsylvanians (who knew there was such a thing?!) recently met with the evil Gov. Tom Wolf to urge him to pass more gun control legislation.

Penn Live reports:

At a Capitol Rotunda rally visited by Gov. Tom Wolf, a coalition of groups called for measures such as establishment of a new “extreme risk protection order,” creating a process not unlike protection from abuse orders in domestic violence cases to let police or family members petition local courts for temporary confiscation of guns from a person deemed to be mentally unstable.

They also promised to work on tightening perceived loopholes in state background checks for gun purchases and other steps that - if not cure-alls to the plague of gun violence - might at least bend the arc of community safety in the right direction.

Wolf, not surprisingly, spoke in favor of both red flag gun confiscation laws and expanded background checks.

Red Flag Laws in South Carolina
“Law enforcement across South Carolina may soon have the right to seize firearms and ammunition,” ABC News 2 reports.

A bill has recently been filed in South Carolina’s State House to legalize “probable cause gun seizures,” otherwise known as red flag gun confiscation laws.

"I think with every right there comes responsibility, so if we are going to exercise the right in society to have guns, to own them and operate them, we also have to look at what are the associated responsibilities that we have ensuring that,” said Rep. Ivory Thigpen.

Gunpowder Magazine has reported repeatedly that red flag laws are dangerous and unconstitutional. These laws: mean law-abiding gun owners are guilty until proven innocent, make it possible for pretty much anyone to accuse you of being unstable, can lead to months of gun confiscation, and are supported by both Republicans and Democrats.

Vermont Weighs Both Sides
Vermont’s legislature is considering several bills for and against gun control.

CBS6 reports there are bills pending to: legalize the use of silencers on firearms hunters use, “make it a crime for anyone under a relief from abuse order to possess a firearm,” lift the state’s ban on “high-capacity” magazines, outlaw 3-D printed guns, and “create a 48-hour waiting period for firearm purchases,” respectively.

Guns and Religion in Virginia
A bill to legalize bringing firearms to places of worship recently passed the Virginia state Senate along party lines.

Fox News reports:

The bill would repeal a law that reportedly dates back to colonial times, which makes it a misdemeanor to carry "a gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger, or other dangerous weapon, without good and sufficient reason, to a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held at such place."

Virginia Republican Sen. Richard Black, a veteran of the Vietnam War who wants to repeal the law, pointed to the mass shootings at a Sikh temple in 2012 and at the African Methodist church in South Carolina in 2015.

"These folks are uniquely vulnerable because they're lined up in a church pew; exiting the pew is very difficult. It makes them the ultimate target," Black said. "Either you cower in place or you fight back."

LEOs Stand Strong in Washington State
The best news, for last:

Washington State residents approved the passage of several strict gun control policies during the midterm elections, but not all law enforcement officers (LEOs) are planning to enforce the new laws.

“Initiative 1639 — approved in November — raises the age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21, calls for enhanced background checks, and requires buyers to complete a firearm safety course,” QX13 Fox reports. “The initiative also holds gun owners accountable if someone uses their firearm to harm themselves or others.”

"I think it’s a bad law and I think it violates people’s rights,” Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer said in an interview. “This law will do nothing to stop crime or do anything to make our communities safer. But what it will do is make criminals out of our honest citizens.”

“Yakima County Sheriff Bob Udell has joined the ranks of law enforcement officers who say they will not enforce [Initiative 1639 ],” The Yakima Herald reports. “I just do not believe that it falls within the Constitution — not the state or federal constitutions,” Udell said. “I don’t like it. It’s not aimed at who’s committing crimes.”

According to QX13 Fox, “Republic Police Chief Loren Culp announced shortly after the November election that they wouldn't enforce the new law. The Lewis County Sheriff's Office in November said it would ‘not actively seek out violations,’ but that deputies would enforce the law.”

Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine. Contact her at teresa@gunpowdermagazine.com.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.