- - Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Elections have consequences. Virginia, which for decades had been considered reliably conservative, is now firmly in “progressive” hands and quickly morphing into one of the most liberal states in the East.

The left saw the Commonwealth trending left for some years and, led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, channeled millions of dollars into key legislative races last fall. The blunt force of increased dollars that turned Orange County, California, was just as effective in Virginia. Liberals seized top-to-bottom control of Virginia’s government for the first time. 

Liberal candidates won and the out-of-state donors who made their victories possible are getting their money’s worth. Mr. Bloomberg, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the new liberal leaders of the General Assembly and Senate are proposing perhaps the most restrictive firearms laws in any state and just after the New Year held “public” hearings around the state to whip up support for their planned legislation.

When the planned restrictions were made public just after the election in late 2019, they resulted in a firestorm of opposition. Second Amendment supporters stormed county meetings demanding that localities declare themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” and refuse to enforce any unconstitutional laws that might be enacted by the new regime in Richmond. As 2019 ended, 92 Virginia counties and cities had passed resolutions declaring themselves sanctuaries.

The governor was outraged and with his attorney general condemned the resolutions, declaring both sanctimoniously and hypocritically that it is their duty to see that all of Virginia’s duly-enacted legislation is enforced. The governor promised “consequences” if any law enforcement officer anywhere in the state refused to enforce whatever laws the legislature passes in the early 2020 session.

This reaction was, of course, at odds with his silence as more liberal Virginia jurisdictions declared themselves immigration law sanctuaries and the decision to treat violators of many state and federal drug laws with what might best be described as “benign neglect.”

Guns must be different. The proposed package includes universal background checks, a one-gun-a-month ban on firearms purchases, a so-called red flag law that flaunts the very idea of due process, and, most controversially, a ban on not just the sale but the possession of what progressives like to call “assault weapons” as well as any parts or accessories that might be utilized on these vaguely defined firearms. 

Other states have banned or restricted the sale of semi-automatic sporting rifles, but most have “grandfathered” legally purchased before the ban was enacted. Mr. Northam’s definition of “assault weapons” is not only broader than most, but would subject anyone possessing any firearm, part or accessory covered by the law to arrest, prosecution and imprisonment for up to five years.

This would include possession of any rifle or semi-automatic pistol capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, a provision that would make most handguns purchased today illegal.

Clearly, the governor and his allies are looking forward to the passage of his package of laws, but also to targeting and gleefully locking up otherwise law-abiding Virginians.

The state’s General Assembly has even before the passage of the governor’s requested gun control measures included an additional $250,000 in the state budget for the state corrections department to cover an expected “increase in the operating cost of adult correctional facilities resulting from the enactment” of the proposed laws.

When local jurisdictions began balking at the idea of enforcing what many see quite rationally as unconstitutional restriction on their citizens’ Second Amendment rights, one of the governor’s legislative allies suggested that the governor could call up the National Guard to go into recalcitrant jurisdictions to confiscate “illegal” guns.

The mere suggestion of such action created a crisis of sorts within the Guard. The state commander felt the need to issue a statement to his troops essentially promising that this was not about to happen. 

The governor’s allies have noted that there is doubt about the legal ability of Virginia counties to simply declare themselves Second Amendment “sanctuaries,” but the fact that tens of thousands of gun owners are showing up at County Board meetings and that officials in 92 Virginia counties have passed resolutions supporting their cause should not be lost on the governor and his allies in Richmond.

The Virginia Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee takes up the Northam package on Jan. 13. The governor wants it fast-tracked and passed within a week or so. Whether he succeeds will be determined by men and women representing many of the same jurisdictions that have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries.

The governor and his allies seem determined to turn Virginia into New York. Whether he succeeds will depend on whether the Republicans and Democrats sitting in the Senate and General Assembly listen to him and Mike Bloomberg or the people they are supposed to represent.

• David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times. He is a former president of the National Rifle Association.

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