Virginia Senate blocks another Ralph Northam-backed gun bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted against a bill that would make it a felony to 'recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm'

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Senate blocked one of Gov. Ralph Northam's top gun-control bills Monday, adding to the list of measures the Democratic governor supports that may not pass the legislature.

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The Senate Judiciary Committee voted against a bill that would make it a felony to “recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm” in a way that endangers a minor.

It's one of eight gun-related proposals that Northam has urged lawmakers to adopt. Virginia has become ground zero in the nation's raging debate over gun control and mass shootings as a new Democratic majority seeks to enact strict new limits. Last month, tens of thousands of guns-rights activists from around the country flooded the Capitol and the surrounding area in protest, some donning tactical gear and carrying military rifles.

Two moderate Democrats — Sens. Creigh Deeds and Chap Petersen — joined with Republicans to defeat the bill Monday over concerns that law-abiding gun owners could be unfairly punished.

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A similar measure has already passed the House, and the legislation could still pass the Senate later during this year's legislative session.

“This bill will keep children safe from loaded, unsecured firearms. Like Gov. Northam's other commonsense gun safety measures, it is something that everyone -- including responsible gun owners -- should support," said Northam's spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky.

Lawmakers have already signaled that at least one other Northam-backed gun-control bill — a ban on so-called assault weapons like the popular AR-15-syle rifles — may not pass.

Both chambers have passed some of Northam's proposed gun control measures, and will hash out any differences between their respective versions in coming weeks. Those include limiting handgun purchases to once a month; universal background checks on gun purchases; and a red flag bill that would allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from anyone deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others.

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Guns were a key topic of last year's legislative elections — particularly after a mass shooting in Virginia Beach claimed a dozen lives — and gun-control groups heavily funded Democratic candidates. Democrats won full control of the legislature for the first time in a generation.