A House bill requiring firearms to be microstamp-enabled recently failed in the Virginia General Assembly, but not without a tense exchange before the vote was called.
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, introduced House Bill 1788, which would require firearms sold after July 1, 2025 to have a unique “alphanumeric or geometric code” that identifies the item’s make, model and serial number. That identifier would create a microstamp on each expended cartridge case each time the firearm was fired.
The bill would also make it unlawful to transfer a firearm that wasn’t microstamp-enabled. The altering of the stamp would be a Class 3 misdemeanor, according to the bill, which is punishable by a maximum $500 fine.
Filler-Corn called the bill “pro-law enforcement,” because the identifying information could help solve crimes, she said.
“We’ll continue to introduce legislation, support legislation and eventually when we’re back in control, actually pass legislation that will save lives,” Filler-Corn said.
California and New York are the only two states with a microstamp policy.
There is a lack of companies and manufacturers producing microstamp-enabled firearms now, according to Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. The organization lobbies for gun rights.
The measure is “totally unconstitutional” and would be difficult to establish, Van Cleave said.
“There would of had to have been some analogy in history back in late 1700s or the 1800s where we had things that marked gun cartridges and it was a requirement,” Van Cleave said. “There was no such thing, nothing even close.”
Firearm store owners would need to get their hands on microstamp-enabled firearms in order to legally sell them to the direct public. The bill had a delayed start period of two years.
Tony Martin is the owner of New American Arms, a local gun store in Richmond. He said his business would not be the only one affected if the bill had passed.
“My concern, I think, would be that it would affect sales of all guns,” Martin said. “Maybe this is a politically motivated attempt if we require technology that’s not available, and then they say, ‘OK, well, because of this law you can’t sell guns.’”
The bill contained a provision that would not apply to any firearm manufactured prior to July 1, 2025.
The issue is not about the loss of firearms in society, but the amount of crime committed and most importantly, Filler-Corn said, the crime that goes unsolved.
There was a tense exchange ahead of the subcommittee’s vote on the measure. Committee chair Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, eventually declared Del. Candi Mundon King, D-Prince William, out of order when she was speaking about the bill. Mundon King, whose husband works for law enforcement, thanked Filler-Corn for introducing a “revolutionary” bill. The delegate said she grew up in a community “ravaged by gun violence and unsolved crimes.”
“It stays with you, it stains communities,” Mundon King said.
Freitas interrupted Mundon King when she said “the only people who have an issue with this [bill] are people who are benefitting.”
Freitas had stated a few minutes before, when Filler-Corn blamed the gun lobby for preventing the bill’s passage, that it was OK to “argue passionately” on behalf of a bill, but not OK to question the intentions of others being discussed.
“We will do this one day, but not today,” Mundon King said as Freitas called the vote, after a back and forth exchange.
The final vote to kill the measure was 6-4.
Lawmakers introduced around 50 firearm-related bills this session, according to a review of the Virginia Legislative Information System website. The two chambers are represented by different parties and gridlock is anticipated for most gun control proposals, and for measures that would roll back existing gun control policies.
“There is never going to be one bill that will answer and solve all gun violence,” Filler-Corn said. “But every single bill, every single measure, every single gun violence prevention bill and gun safety bill that we have passed, each and every one of them actually saved lives and it makes a difference.”
By Samuel Britt / Capital News Service