A circuit court judge in Goochland County has blocked an attempt by gun rights groups to temporarily halt the implementation of a Virginia law that will limit a person’s ability to purchase a handgun to one per month unless they meet certain criteria.
Without ruling on whether the law is constitutional, Judge Timothy Sanner blocked the temporary injunction, which would have stopped the law from going into effect before the court made a ruling on its constitutionality. The court found Gun Owners of America, the Virginia Citizens Defense league and the other plaintiffs did not meet the burden of proof required for the injunction.
The decision means the law will go into effect Wednesday, but the court still will hear legal arguments about the bill before making a decision on whether it is constitutional.
“[This legislation] strikes a reasonable balance between the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms and the Commonwealth’s legitimate interest in stemming the flow of handguns that can cause violence, bloodshed, and heartbreak in communities across Virginia and the East Coast when they are illegally sold, trafficked, stolen, or otherwise put into the hands of dangerous individuals,” Attorney General Mark Herring argued in defending the merits of the law.
In a news release, the attorney general’s office said this type of legislation repeatedly has been ruled constitutional at the federal level.
The plaintiffs primarily argue the legislation violates Article 1, Sec. 13 of the Virginia Constitution, which ensures the right to keep and bear arms, similar to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They argue case law shows the right to acquire a firearm is protected under this article and the new law puts heavy restrictions on purchasing a firearm, which they said is a gross, overreaching infringement on a citizen’s constitutional rights.
“The one-handgun-a-month law is an unconstitutional infringement,” Erich Pratt, the senior vice president of Gun Owners of America, said in a statement. “It imposes a ban on any individual who purchases a handgun, effectively telling them they can only buy one handgun during a 30-day period. Would we tolerate such an infringement upon the First Amendment? Would we tolerate a law that tells pastors they can only preach one sermon in a month? Or legislation ordering newspapers to only print one article? This lawsuit by GOA and VCDL is grounded upon constitutional principles, and we look forward to presenting our case to the judge.”
The gun groups also have filed a lawsuit that claims Virginia’s expanded background check law, which also is set to go into effect Wednesday, is unconstitutional. Herring also is defending that law.
Three other gun laws are set to go into effect Wednesday, including red-flag legislation.