RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Two bills are progressing through Virginia’s General Assembly seeking to prohibit the manufacture, importation and sale of automatic sears on the statewide level.
House Bill 22 and Senate Bill 210 have both passed in their respective chambers with legislative supporters seeking this prohibition. The House bill passed unanimously while the Senate bill passed with a vote of 28-12.
An auto sear — colloquially known as “Glock switch” — is a device made out of metal or plastic that can be attached to a firearm allowing it to automatically fire, allowing for a rapid rate of fire.
These devices are currently illegal under federal law as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) makes it unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machine gun unless “a transfer to or by, or possession by or under the authority of, the United States or any department or agency thereof or a State, or a department, agency, or political subdivision thereof.” The ATF recognizes automatic sears as machine guns.
The ATF also makes exceptions for machine guns legally possessed before May 19, 1986. The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act amended the Gun Control Act — which prohibited the transfer or possession of machine guns. The amendment then gave permission to only authorities mentioned to transfer and possess machine guns while also making exceptions for those who lawfully possessed machine guns before May 19, 1986.
Last month, Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards discussed the matter of auto sears at the most recent end-of-the-year crime briefing stating the department is working with the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney to bring forth legislation to address the matter.
“The intended targets aren’t even always hit with those,” Edwards said. “They’re incredibly dangerous, they don’t serve a purpose.”
The Virginia Citizen’s Defense League is a non-profit organization lobbying against gun control. 8News reached out to the league’s president on the topic and was met with a response through a Zoom interview.
“Those are legal federally — this just makes them illegal statewide as well,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizen’s Defense League. “It makes it easier to prosecute. We’re neutral on that bill because it doesn’t really change anything from what we’ve got now.”
Both bills must pass through the opposite chamber before reaching Governor Glenn Youngkin’s desk.