Gun Rights Activists Sue to Block Virginia’s Universal Background Checks Law

Gun rights activists have filed another lawsuit challenging Virginia’s soon-to-become-law gun control measures, this time challenging expanded background checks.

The lawsuit from the Virginia Citizens Defense League and five other plaintiffs was filed late Monday afternoon in Lynchburg Circuit Court. It argues that the law, which is set to take effect July 1, violates residents’ constitutional rights by making them subject to background checks.

The measure, one of seven big-ticket gun control laws the General Assembly passed this year, had some bipartisan support in the legislature.

“The restriction that would be imposed by [the background checks law] is not just any type of infringement of a right that ‘shall not be infringed,’ but it is also a grossly overreaching infringement on the right of Virginians to keep and bear arms,” the lawsuit says.

“In effect, it tells law-abiding Virginians that they cannot exercise their right to keep and bear arms until both the commonwealth of Virginia and the federal government first have actively interceded and decided that it is permissible for them to do so.”

The lawsuit seeks an injunction and a ruling that the new law is unconstitutional.

“Background checks are critical to ensuring that firearms stay out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” said Charlotte Gomer, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Mark Herring. “Similar laws have been continuously upheld in court and Attorney General Herring looks forward to defending Virginia’s new expanded background checks law against the gun lobby’s attacks.”

Gomer added: “This and other gun safety measures were put in place to keep Virginians and their communities and loved ones safe, and that remains Attorney General Herring’s top priority.”

The VCDL, the group behind January’s gun rights protest in Richmond that drew more than 20,000 people, also filed a lawsuit this month challenging the legislature-approved law that limits people to buying one handgun per month.

A hearing in that case is scheduled for Thursday.