Last Updated on February 3, 2020
Before Virginia’s 2020 legislative session commenced, Senator Lynwood Lewis, a Democrat, vowed not to support any of Governor Northam’s Bloomberg-sponsored legislation allowing for firearm and magazine bans.
In a recent editorial published by the Shore Daily News, Lewis laid out his views on key pieces of the Governor’s legislative agenda and ensured constituents that regardless of party affiliation, he has drawn a line in the sand.
“I want to take a moment to discuss the gun issue which has so unfortunately and, in my view, unnecessarily divided our Commonwealth…My focus has been on what I call access issues. That is trying to make sure that the filter between those whom we all agree should not have access to firearms is a tight one.”
Lewis went on to say that while he voted in favor of “red flag” laws and background check bills, he has worked hard to ensure that legislation would not make criminals out of law-abiding gun owners, and reiterated his refusal to support bills targeting magazines and firearms.
“The bill which rightfully had everyone very concerned (SB16) never even made it out of committee. That is why I caution everyone who was so worried about the bill that anybody can introduce a bill — whether it passes or not is a completely different question. There is no Senate bill now regarding the banning of assault rifles. The Governor’s bill on this topic was introduced in the House of Delegates and is being carried by Delegate Mark Levine. As I stated publicly before the Session and as was reported in Eastern Shore news media I will not be supporting any type of ban legislation whether on a particular type of firearm or a particular type of magazine.”
Senator Lewis also took aim at SB 581, a bill introduced by Senator Janet Howell of Fairfax, that Lewis says highlights the ever-increasing cultural divide taking root in Virginia.
Hailing from the Eastern Shore’s rural Accomac County, Lewis has become an outlier of sorts in a party that has rapidly shifted from a statewide entity to one mostly confined to the Northern Virginia suburbs, urban districts around Richmond and Hampton Roads, and a few left-leaning islands – usually home to colleges and universities – sprinkled throughout seas of conservatism.
“In addition Senator Howell has proposed SB581 which is very problematic and further highlights the cultural divide in our Commonwealth. That bill has an unintended consequence making it very difficult for our young people between the ages of fourteen and eighteen to have access to firearms for hunting and other purposes. Unless that legislation is amended in some significant way I will not be voting in favor of it.”
As for raising the age of purchase for firearms to twenty-one, Lewis says he sees it as a non-starter.
“Senator Saslaw put in a bill which would raise the legal age for firearm purchases to twenty-one. As a general philosophical approach to legislation which seeks to increase the age threshold from eighteen to twenty-one I have a problem, since we allow eighteen year olds to vote and in all other respects be treated as adult members of society. I do not believe that we can pick and choose for which things they should be held accountable as adults. We should have had that discussion decades ago when we decided to treat eighteen year olds as full adults. Unless we want to have that larger discussion again, I will resist increasing the age to twenty-one.”
Lewis isn’t alone in pushing back against his party. At least three other Democrat Senators, Creigh Deeds, John Edwards, and Chap Petersen, have also reportedly expressed reservations when it comes to bans on magazines and firearms.
At current count, Democrats hold a 21-19 majority over Republicans in the State Senate. If Lewis stands alone and a 20-20 tie takes place, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax will be tasked with casting the tie-breaking vote, which would certainly be in favor of gun control legislation. If a weapons ban bill makes it to the Senate floor, Lewis would need to win over at least one of the aforementioned three to prevent it from passing.