|RICHMOND (June 22, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today filed a brief defending Virginia’s new one-handgun-a-month law as constitutional and a proven measure to limit gun trafficking that was previously in effect in the Commonwealth for nearly two decades. Last week, a lawsuit was filed by the gun lobby in Goochland Circuit Court challenging the new “firearms trafficking prevention law” that “is exactly the kind of common-sense ‘law imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms’ that is entirely consistent with the constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.” The new law is set to go into effect on July 1.
Attorney General Herring argues in the brief that the one-handgun-a-month law “strikes a reasonable balance between the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms and the Commonwealth’s legitimate interest in stemming the flow of handguns that can cause violence, bloodshed, and heartbreak in communities across Virginia and the East Coast when they are illegally sold, trafficked, stolen, or otherwise put into the hands of dangerous individuals.”
“The Commonwealth had a one-handgun-a-month law in place for nearly twenty years that was incredibly successful in keeping guns off of our streets and out of our communities,” said Attorney General Herring. “Virginia is currently one of the easiest places for gun traffickers to purchase a large number of firearms, but we shouldn’t be under any illusions that our guns are just exported, because it’s just as easy for dangerous people in Virginia to get their hands on guns. This proven gun safety measure will make it that much harder for gun traffickers and dangerous criminals alike to get their hands on firearms.
“Last November, Virginians showed that they were ready for meaningful gun reform in the Commonwealth, and this year the General Assembly delivered. Time and again this and other commonsense gun safety measures have been deemed constitutional and I will fight to ensure that the one-handgun-a-month law goes into effect in just a few days.”
Virginia is an “iron pipeline state”, which means that it is one of the top firearm suppliers for gun traffickers who purchase large numbers of firearms in states with more lax gun restrictions like Virginia and then transport them to other states, namely New York, to illegally sell them. According to the New York Attorney General’s office:
- 3,249 of the 18,361, or about 15%, of all likely-trafficked crime guns in the state of New York came from Virginia
In the brief, Attorney General Herring argues that a proven “strategy for reducing firearms trafficking has been placing limitations on the ability to purchase multiple firearms in a single transaction.”
Attorney General Herring explains that Virginia had a similar, very effective law for nearly 20 years saying, “[i]n 1993, the General Assembly made it a class 1 misdemeanor for any non-exempted person to purchase more than one handgun within any thirty-day period.” He also highlights that the State Crime Commission conducted a study on the previous law that “concluded that the 1993 law ‘had its intended effect of reducing Virginia’s status as a source state for gun trafficking.’”
Additionally, Attorney General Herring notes that “gun trafficking in Virginia has increased since the 1993 law’s repeal.” The brief highlights that “[i]n 2017, for example, 22 Virginians were indicted as part of the biggest gun arrest in Brooklyn’s history, when members of the Bloods gang were caught purchasing hundreds of firearms in Richmond and Newport News for resale in New York.” Attorney General Herring further explains that “[d]ata shows that this was not an isolated incident, as gun trafficking numbers in Virginia steadily increased after 2012.”
Finally, Attorney General Herring argues in the brief that the plaintiffs are “unlikely to succeed on the merits because the 2020 version of this previously successful firearms trafficking prevention law simply ‘impos[es] conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms’—exactly the kind of regulation that both the Supreme Court of Virginia and the United States Supreme Court have held is ‘presumptively lawful.’”
This year, the General Assembly passed historic gun safety legislation that Attorney General Herring fought for during his time both as a state senator and as attorney general. In addition to reinstating the one-handgun-a-month law, the legislation included universal background checks, an Extreme Risk Protective Order, a mandate to report a lost or stolen firearm, among others.
A hearing for this lawsuit will be held on Thursday, June 25th at 3:00 PM in Goochland Circuit Court.
You can find a copy of Attorney General Herring’s filed brief here.