Youngkin vetoes Virginia assault weapons ban, signs 2 gun control measures

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) vetoed an assault weapons ban that passed the state Legislature last month, alongside multiple other gun control bills, in a 30-bill veto session on Tuesday.

“I swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of Virginia, and that absolutely includes protecting the right of law-abiding Virginians to keep and bear arms,” Youngkin said in a statement after vetoing the bills.

The governor did sign two more limited gun regulations into law, however — one that bans gun trigger switches that can make firearms fire automatically and a second that allows criminal charges against parents who allow children deemed threats to have access to weapons.

“I am pleased to sign … public safety bills which are commonsense reforms with significant bipartisan support from the General Assembly,” he added.

Tuesday marked a rare test for Youngkin on gun control, as the previously split state Legislature did not advance any significant gun control measures until Democrats took both chambers last year.

The trigger switch ban outlaws the device known as an “auto sear,” a simple modification that effectively converts semiautomatic firearms into fully automatic ones. The devices have come under intense scrutiny in recent months as a target for gun control activists.

The city of Chicago sued Glock, the handgun manufacturer, earlier this month over the devices, claiming the company is criminally negligent in allowing its firearms to be so easily modified.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reported a 400 percent increase in recoveries of illegally modified machine guns from 2020 to 2021 and a 570 percent increase in auto sears from 2017 to 2021 as compared to the previous five-year period.

Youngkin also proposed six amendments to gun control measures instead of vetoing them outright.

Gun control activist groups praised Youngkin for signing the two gun control bills, but pushed him to do more.

“Getting two gun safety bills signed by Governor Youngkin is a step in the right direction. It shows that we don’t have to accept America’s gun violence crisis as inevitable,” Students Demand Action volunteer Grace Varughese said in a statement. “While we’re happy these bills are now law, we can’t ignore that the governor also vetoed a lot of other bills that could’ve saved lives.”

“Our work doesn’t stop here,” she added. “Young people in Virginia are committed to making our state safer so the next generation doesn’t have to grow up in constant fear of gun violence.”

Nevertheless, the activists acknowledged the progress in getting Youngkin to sign the bills, noting his campaign position as a strong defender of the Second Amendment.

“It speaks volumes about the changing political calculus around gun safety that the Republican governor of Virginia, which is the longtime home of the [National Rifle Association], just signed legislation to prevent gun violence,” Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt said in a statement.

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