Republican Caucus Chair Del. Tim Hugo is now backing a “red flag” gun law in the wake of back-to-back mass shootings that killed 31 people earlier this month.
The bill, introduced by Del. Jason Miyares, also a Republican, would allow law enforcement to temporarily seize guns from people found to be a danger to themselves or to others.
Hugo, who has an A-rating from the National Rifle Association, has not previously stated his support for such measures. Hugo is the only Republican state delegate representing Northern Virginia. His 40th District spans the western portions of Fairfax and Prince William counties.
“I take the issue of gun violence very seriously and always have,” Hugo said in an email. “That is why I have signed on to Delegate Miyares' Red Flag Law, which will give law enforcement another tool to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them while simultaneously protecting due process.”
Miyares represents the 82nd House of Delegates district, which includes Virginia Beach, the site of a May 31 mass shooting by a disgruntled city employee that left 13 people dead, including the gunman.
Hugo’s shift in support for the bill was in response to back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 3 and 4. The El Paso shooter, who targeted Hispanic shoppers at a Walmart, killing 22 and injuring dozens more, was armed with an AK-47 assault-style rifle.
The Dayton, Ohio, shooter used a .223-caliber, high-capacity rifle technically classified as pistol to kill nine people and injure 27 at a restaurant. The shooter’s rampage lasted only 30 seconds before he was shot and killed by police.
In the past, Hugo has voted in favor of expanding gun rights for Virginians, including restoring firearms rights for felons and expanding concealed carry laws. But on several occasions the delegate has also supported more restrictive gun-control measures in the state.
In 2008, Hugo co-sponsored legislation to require mental health questions on state gun background checks following a mass shooting at Virginia Tech. In 2016, he co-sponsored legislation to make it a felony for anyone subject to a permanent protective order for family abuse to be in possession of a firearm.
“As a delegate, I have consistently voted to keep firearms out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally ill and to institute harsher penalties for criminals who possess guns illegally,” Hugo said.
Hugo’s support for the bill comes only a month after Virginia Republicans abruptly ended a special legislative session on gun violence called by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) in response to a mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building that killed 12 people and wounded four. Republicans postponed the vote on over 50 gun bills until after the November elections.
The GOP referred the bills to the Virginia State Crime Commission, which is scheduled to meet next week.
Democratic legislators called the delay a failure of leadership by Republicans to address gun violence in Virginia.
Hugo’s Democratic challenger Dan Helmer, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, has called for tighter gun laws, and was recently endorsed by Gabrielle Giffords, a former Arizona congresswoman who was shot and critically injured in a 2011 mass shooting that left six people dead.
“If Delegate Hugo were serious about gun safety, he wouldn’t have voted to shut down an emergency session on gun violence just a month ago and he wouldn’t have stopped 70 pieces of commonsense gun safety legislation from passing this year alone,” Helmer said.
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