Virginia’s Supposedly “Pro-Gun” AG is Working to Maintain Universal Background Checks

Virginia has experienced a notable shift in the anti gun direction over the past decade that culminated in the complete Democratic takeover of the Virginia state government in 2019. As a result of this political shift, several gun control measures such as universal background checks (UBC) were passed. Under UBCs, it became illegal to transfer a firearm without it going through a federal firearms licensee (FFL).

Gun owners in the state felt that the passage of this law was unconstitutional. In turn, Gun Owners of America (GOA), Gun Owners Foundation (GOF), and Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) teamed up to file a lawsuit against Virginia over the UBC law.

The lawsuit was filed during the time Mark Herring was Virginia’s Attorney General, and he fought to uphold UBCs. John Crump of AmmoLand noted that the pro-Second Amendment groups “won a partial injunction against the law.” The court ordered Virginia residents in the age range of 18-20 to be exempt from the law. In Virginia, individuals 18 and up are legally allowed to own a handgun. Though, under federal law, it’s still illegal to transfer a handgun to any individual under 21 via the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). 

Before the law was enacted, people under 21 could purchase a handgun through a private sale. The judge ruled that residents between the age of 18 and 20 would still be able to obtain handguns through private sales without going through an FFL. The constitutionality of the rest of the law still has to be argued in court.

Republicans’ strong performance in the 2021 Virginia elections saw the Governor’s mansion, the Lieutenant Governor’s office, the Attorney General’s office, and the Virginia House of Delegates fall into GOP hands. This gave gun owners a sliver of hope that certain gun control laws would be reversed. 

Jason Miyares, Virginia’s current Attorney General, was initially seen as a figure that could reverse this gun control. He voted against UBCs while he was in the Virginia House of Delegates and received an A rating with the NRA. However, he began concerning several gun organizations on the campaign trail when he avoided questions regarding UBCs and magazine limitations 

According to the Richmond Times, “Miyares dodged a question asking for his position on universal background checks, limits on magazine capacity, and a ban on assault weapons.”

Per Crump’s article, Miyares is apparently working to maintain UBCs. In response, Gun Owners of America (GOA) has carried out an email campaign to get AG Miyares to keep the promises he made while he was a member of the House of Delegates. The gun rights organization is calling on Virginians to email the AG’s office and urge him to reverse course on UBCs and keep his oath to respect the US Constitution and the Virginia Constitution. On its website, the group included Miyares’ phone number for gun owners to hit up.

The email stated: Unfortunately, Attorney General Miyares is NOT WILLING to support our efforts and still insists on enforcing—and defending—the unconstitutional law passed by anti-gun zealots.

GOA’s Senior Vice President Erich Pratt expressed his frustration with the AG’s moves to keep UBCs. He initially expected Miyares to reverse Ralph Northam-era gun control measures.

“It’s disappointing that Jason Miyares plans to enforce legislation that was enacted by anti-gun Democrats—specifically, a law that requires practically every transfer of a firearm to generate a background check and paperwork at a licensed gun dealer,” Pratt said to AmmoLand News. “This scheme has contributed to the massive database of gun owners that is being maintained by the ATF—a registry that will only serve as a first step to gun confiscation. Miyares should be doing everything in his power to help the GOA-VCDL case succeed, rather than fighting in favor of gun control.”

Virginia is currently ranked in 35th place per Guns & Ammo magazine’s most recent best states for gun owners rankings. Overall, gun owners will have a hard time restoring gun rights in Old Dominion through conventional means. At this point in history, Virginia gun owners must start using the courts and nullifying gun control at the municipal and county level to reverse gun control and restore some gun rights that have been lost along the way. 

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