If you live in Virginia, you’ve probably seen the numerous news stories about Senate Bill No. 16 (SB 16), or the “Assault firearms and certain firearms magazines; prohibiting sale, transport, etc., penalties” bill. Indeed, you may even be someone who is actively advocating for or against the legislation. Whatever your familiarity with the legislation, SB 16 is certainly making waves amongst conservative circles in Virginia (and nationwide) and, if it is to pass and be signed into law, will have a big effect on certain gun owners, and may also give rise to active dissent and a lack of enforcement at the local level, especially with the growth of Second Amendment sanctuary cities throughout our state.
SB 16 was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary on November 18, 2019, and offered for hearing on January 8, 2020. Here’s an overview of the basics of the legislation and how it may affect gun owners should it be signed into law in the future–
What Is Senate Bill No. 16?
Senate Bill No. 16 was pre-filed by Senator Richard S. Saslaw, a Democrat, for the 2020 session in November of 2019. In essence, the bill would ban certain firearms and related devices. Specifically, the legislation would:
- Prohibit any person from carrying a loaded shotgun in public, including those with a concealed carry permit, if the shotgun was equipped with a magazine capable of holding more than seven rounds.
- Prohibit persons under age 18 from the possession of shotguns described above with the exception of certain circumstances.
- Prohibit a gun dealer from renting, trading, selling, or transferring an assault rifle (per a new definition in the proposed legislation).
- Prohibit the importation or sale of any firearm magazine designed to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Current laws prohibit a dealer from selling to a person who is not a citizen of the United States; such an action is classified as a Class 6 felony offense. The proposed law would extend the prohibition to all persons, making selling an assault firearm to anyone, citizen or not, a Class 6 felony. A Class 6 felony offense carries a maximum offense of up to five years in prison or 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Changing the Definition of an Assault Firearm
SB 16 would also redefine what is considered an “assault firearm,” both amending and expanding it. Under current law, an assault firearm means a semi-automatic centerfire rifle or pistol which is equipped with a magazine that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or which is designed to accommodate a silencer or is equipped with a folding stock or a shotgun with a magazine that will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered.
The new legislation would amend the current definition to include centerfire rifles and pistols that have a magazine capacity in excess of 10 rounds; a rifle or pistol with the ability to attach a magazine that also has at least additional characteristic named in the legislation (Section 18.2.308.8), such as telescoping or folding stock, a protruding pistol grip, etc.; or a shotgun with a revolving cylinder. See the legislation for full details of the proposed definition.
Additionally, the legislation also includes in the definition of an “assault firearm” any part or combination of parts designed to modify an otherwise non-assault firearm into an assault firearm.
Senate Bill No. 16 Would Make Possession of an Assault Firearm Illegal
For those who are opposed to the legislation, much of that opposition is rooted in the fact that it would make it illegal for those who currently own assault weapons–and who obtained those weapons lawfully–to remain in possession of their weapons. In fact, there is talk of having current owners of assault firearms hand their weapons in – an idea that has generated some areas of Virginia to declare themselves, or propose the idea of, “sanctuary cities.” Such sanctuaries are counties, towns, or cities where localities have pledged not to contribute funds or resources to the enforcement of legislation should it become law.
Have More Questions About SB 16? Call Leary Law Today
Senate Bill No. 16 is controversial legislation that has people on both sides of the political aisle fired up. If the bill does pass, it will mean that holding on to your assault firearms is illegal – a Class 6 felony. For gun owners, this raises a number of questions and potential legal concerns.
If you have questions about SB 16 and what your rights are, as well as what legal consequences you may face in the event that SB 16 becomes law, reach out to our Virginia criminal defense lawyers at the law offices of Leary Law for your consultation.