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Red Flag law passed by General Assembly

The 2020 Session has completed its seventh week in Richmond, and I’d like to take a moment to update you on the latest from the General Assembly as we prepare to adjourn March 7.

This week, the House voted on several Senate bills that have revived debate about some of the most controversial issues of this session. House Democrats passed a bill that drastically scales back abortion regulations related to informed consent prior to a procedure, as well as ensuring that abortions are conducted by licensed physicians in facilities that meet adequate safety standards. Republicans urged Democrats to consider how these regulations help women make informed decisions and receive safe treatment, but considerations were soundly rejected. The bill passed on party lines.

Democrats also passed several gun bills this week. These bills include the so-called “Red Flag law” that would allow law enforcement to confiscate firearms from individuals reported to pose a substantial risk to themselves or others. Republicans raised several concerns over this law. In particular, we worry that the threat of having their guns confiscated may discourage people with mental health concerns from seeking the appropriate help, or that individuals may abuse this law to confiscate a person’s guns out of retribution.

Despite this, we remain tentatively hopeful for a final display of bipartisanship before we close out this session. Republicans have urged House Democrats to vote on the proposed constitutional amendment that would end partisan gerrymandering in Virginia. The Democratic leadership, who voted with overwhelming support for the amendment alongside Republicans last year, is now backing off their support, leading to a rift between House and Senate Democrats between those who support the amendment and those who do not. Now, Governor Northam has intervened by promising to provide his own solution, further muddling any clear notion of the Democrats’ intentions. I and my fellow Republicans remain committed to our pledge to pass nonpartisan redistricting.

DEL. C. MATTHEW FARISS represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.