Nonviolent felons could become gun owners

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Legislation moving through the General Assembly could restore some gun rights to nonviolent felons in Virginia.

On a 94-4 vote Tuesday, the House of Delegates passed SB 1533, which would allow nonviolent felons to own “antique firearms.”

The bill proposed by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, would let nonviolent felons own, transport and carry antique firearms and black powder in a quantity not exceeding five pounds.

The firearms can be used solely for sporting, recreational or cultural purposes such as hunting or Civil War re-enactments.

Antique firearms are those considered to be muzzle-loading weapons, into which the powder and projectile are pushed down the barrel of the gun.

Del. Marcus Simon, D- Fairfax, made a last-ditch effort to question the bill by asking what problem it was trying to solve.

“Are there lots and lots and lots of felons that are missing out of the opportunity to carry antique firearms?” Simon asked.

In the end, though, Simon voted for the bill. He urged his colleagues to do the same: “Pass the bill, and keep in mind next time we have a bill before us that talks ways we can encourage nonviolent felons to fully reintegrate, including restoring their voting rights, civil rights and other ways they participate in society.”

There are small differences between the version of SB 1533 passed by the House and the version passed by the Senate on Jan. 31. The House version now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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