Gun control legislation advances in Virginia’s legislature

US

FILE PHOTO: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam speaks to gun control activists at a rally by Moms Demand Action and other family members of shooting victims outside of the Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. July 9, 2019. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy/File Photo

(Reuters) – Seven of eight gun control measures being pushed by Virginia’s Democratic Governor Ralph Northam made it out of a state Senate committee on Monday, moving just one step away from becoming law.

Northam vowed to push through new gun control laws and backed a package of eight bills, including universal background checks, a “red flag” law, restrictions on gun ownership for those convicted of domestic abuse and a limit of handgun sales to one per month for an individual.

Legislators last week knocked down one of the measures Northam pushed, a ban on assault-style rifles, which several lawmakers from his own party did not support.

The Virginia House of Delegates already passed the measures earlier this month. The full state Senate is expected to vote on the measures this week, while a joint committee will meet to iron out the final language in the bill if the wording is changed slightly between houses.

Virginia, where Democrats took control of the legislature last year by promising stronger gun laws, has become the latest focal point for the contentious American debate around the right to bear arms. Many gun-rights groups contend the U.S. Constitution guarantees their ability to possess any firearm. Those opposed say gun laws would help lessen the number of people killed by guns each year.

On Jan. 20, gun advocates held a massive rally around the state capital building, with some 22,000 gun-toting protesters demonstrating peaceably and calling on state lawmakers to protect their right to bear arms.

This isn’t Northam’s first attempt to push through gun laws. He called a special legislative session last year after the massacre of 12 people in Virginia Beach, but the Republicans who then controlled the legislature ended that meeting without a vote.

Reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; editing by Richard Pullin

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