Stories Chosen For You
How a 2019 vote on Virginia’s red flag law is shaking up a GOP primary in 2023
A former state senator with a moderate profile who is trying to make a political comeback in a more conservative district, Sturtevant opened his remarks by telling the crowd he had cast some votes he “regretted.” Supporting a proposed red flag law in 2019, he said later in Thursday’s candidate forum hosted by the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, was “a mistake.”
“At the time we thought it was a way to try to stop some of these shootings by mentally ill folks,” Sturtevant said, noting that both former President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association had expressed support for red flag laws as a general concept. “We’ve seen since that it is abusive and bad policy.”
Sturtevant’s vote for a red flag law, an idea that didn’t pass in 2019 but was enacted in 2020 once Democrats took full control of the General Assembly, has been an early sticking point in what’s expected to be one of the liveliest Republican primary battles of 2023.
Both of Sturtevant’s GOP opponents in the suburban Richmond district — firebrand Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, and nonprofit leader and former congressional candidate Tina Ramirez — have used the issue to attack Sturtevant, highlighting the electoral risks for Republicans who express any support for limitations on gun rights.
Sturtevant, Chase and Ramirez will face off in a primary on June 20. The district they’re competing in leans Republican, covering a large swathe of Chesterfield County and the city of Colonial Heights.
At the VCDL forum, all three candidates said they would vote to repeal Virginia’s red flag law.
“I don’t have any votes that I need to apologize for, though I do appreciate the apology,” Chase said. “I have a 100% VCDL score, 100% of the time.”
Ramirez said she believes the law, which allows authorities to temporarily seize firearms from people deemed to pose a threat to themselves or others, violates both the Second Amendment and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
“Anyone that would support this kind of legislation isn’t only not a conservative, they’re not a constitutionalist,” Ramirez said.
Over more than an hour of questioning from VCDL President Philip Van Cleave, all three candidates repeatedly said they’d work to repeal gun control laws Democrats passed in 2020 and support a so-called constitutional carry law, which would allow Virginians to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
All three said they support lifting restrictions on regular citizens owning fully automatic machine guns. Federal law prohibits civilian ownership of machine guns made after 1986 but includes exemptions for machine guns legally owned prior to that year. Both state and federal law require machine guns to be registered with government agencies.
Raising the specter of war with China, Chase said “we as Americans always have to be ready to go to war.”
“I want to have what they have,” Chase said. “Because I’m not gonna go with a knife to a gunfight.”
Ramirez said people should be able to choose whichever type of firearm works for them.
“Sometimes it’s actually really nice to have one that shoots all over the place if you don’t know exactly how to shoot the target as well as you would like,” she said.
The three contenders also backed the idea of automatically restoring gun rights to people with felony convictions once they leave prison.
“That’s something that I’m going to champion,” Sturtevant said. “When a person has paid their debt to society, and they have done their sentence, they need to get all their rights back, including their gun rights. We’re not gonna pick and choose what rights the state is willing to give back to you.”
Under current law, felons who have had their voting rights restored by a governor can petition a court for restoration of their firearm rights, with an opportunity for prosecutors to object if the requester has a history of violence.
The candidates all expressed broad opposition to location-specific restrictions on guns. But they differed in their responses to questions on how to handle guns in schools.
After Van Cleave asked if Virginia should follow Utah’s lead and allow concealed carry permit holders to take guns into schools, Sturtevant, who formerly served on the Richmond City School Board, said he supports Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s push for armed police officers in every school. But he said he believes it should be up to local officials to decide who should be allowed to have guns in school buildings. Chase and Ramirez disagreed, saying teachers and others should be allowed to have firearms to protect themselves and students.
“Whether you’re a teacher or a coach, no matter who you are, you should be able to carry,” Chase said.
Asked after the forum if she thinks gun-carrying privileges in schools should also extend to students who are 18 or older, Chase said she sees the situation as no different than allowing 18-year-olds to serve in the military.
“If they’re reckless with it, they can lose that right,” she said. “We do have responsible 18-year-olds.”
Sturtevant was the only Senate Republican who voted for the initial bill creating a red flag law when it was put to a committee vote in 2019. The bill failed to advance out of that committee in a 7-7 vote. When the red flag legislation that ultimately passed came to the Senate floor the next year, no Republicans supported it.
Republican lawmakers, including Chase, have filed several bills to repeal Virginia’s red flag law, but those efforts have been unsuccessful due to the Democratic majority in the state Senate.
Sturtevant was one of the most imperiled Senate Republicans in 2019, a year when the suburban anti-Trump backlash delivered Democratic majorites in both General Assembly chambers. Sturtevant lost his seat to Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Richmond, in one of the most expensive races of the 2019 cycle.
In interviews after the forum, both Ramirez and Chase said they think Sturtevant’s 2019 vote shows his willingness to compromise on what they see as a core issue for conservatives.
“If you couldn’t trust him then because he was willing to compromise his values to get reelected, then why should we trust him now when it’s a more conservative seat?” Ramirez said.
In an interview, Sturtevant said his change of heart on red flag laws came about when he realized there was “too much of an opportunity for abuse.”
“It allows the taking away of a constitutional right without due process,” he said, emphasizing his legislative record as a whole was broadly supportive of gun rights.
In his closing remarks to the VCDL crowd, he pitched himself as the most electable candidate in a race Senate Republicans can’t afford to lose if they want to give Youngkin Republican majorities for the final two years of the governor’s four-year term.
“We cannot mess around,” Sturtevant said. “Because we are not guaranteed another Republican governor in the next gubernatorial election.”
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: email@example.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.
John Oliver mocks Trump's indictment-panic on display in a message to farmers
Late-night host John Oliver began his Sunday show by highlighting the news that Donald Trump thinks he's getting arrested on Tuesday.
It's not happening, as it would mean the grand jury would be forced to vote to indict, and the district attorney's office would have to finish all of their paperwork on it, issue an arrest warrant and have it approved by a judge all in 24 hours. But that doesn't mean that a possible arrest isn't going to happen. If Trump's social media account is any indication, he's having a meltdown, certain that it will.
Over the course of the last few nights, the former president has deployed his caps-lock strategy to digitally scream into the virtual void.
"If you're wondering how he's doing right now, don't worry because, in this video that he released directed toward farmers, it seems like he's doing great," Oliver said sarcastically.
He showed a clip of the video in which Trump droned on and on and on about how he was so great for family farmers and claimed he killed the estate tax so if farmers wanted to pass their farms onto their children, they could. But only if they actually liked their children. Some people don't like their children, Trump explained, in a way that seemed a little too close to home.
As a fact check, Trump never killed the estate tax. It simply raised it from $5.6 million to over $11 million. Most people, however, that own estates that are in the multi-millions of dollars have accountants and lawyers that can help them design a trust that passes everything over to their inheritance tax-free and without the need for probate court.
"I mean, he's still got it," said Oliver. "He has still got it. And by 'it' I mean whatever it is that is so deeply wrong with his brain. Do you know how much you have to hate your kids to get distracted by that thought in the middle of a political speech? 'We should have pulled out troops from the region sooner. Speaking of regretting not pulling out sooner, Don Jr.' And then they shot that with two cameras! They cut something out of that! And given what they kept in, I am dying to know what it was!"
He went on to note that Trump stuck the landing at the end with "have fun," which he called "impeccable."
See the video below or at the link here.
Trump implies the NYPD won't arrest him because he's 'their greatest champion and friend'
Donald Trump took to his social media site on Sunday for another all-caps rant detailing what he's thinking about as a possible indictment looms.
This time it was Trump being arrested by the New York Police Department, which he claimed would never happen because they were friends of his. He thinks that the NYPD is willing to break the law to protect him.
"CAN YOU IMAGINE THE GREAT NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, CORRECTLY REFERRED TO AS 'NEW YORK CITY’S FINEST,' WHO, FOR THE FIRST AND ONLY TIME IN HISTORY, ENDORSED A PRESIDENT, ME, & HONORED ME AS 'MAN OF THE YEAR,' HAVING TO DEFEND & PROTECT THE 'DEFUNDERS' & 'COP HATERS' OF THE RADICAL LEFT THAT WANT TO PUT THEIR GREATEST CHAMPION & FRIEND IN PRISON FOR A CRIME THAT DOESN’T EXIST..."
Over the weekend, Trump falsely claimed that he was going to be arrested on Tuesday. He begged his supporters for help "protesting." Since then, there's been a significant uptick in conversations about weapons preparation.
One thread on Reddit Saturday, shared by a Daily Beast reporter, began by talking about the "patriot mote," a circle around Mar-a-Lago that would protect Trump. Someone then asked what they would do if the police used helicopters. A reply said that they would shoot the police down.
The Daily Beast called both the Palm Beach Police and the NYPD. while the former wouldn't respond, the NYPD said that their officers were "closely monitoring social media as well as intelligence from federal authorities and other police departments to assess the size of any protests."
There is a plan in place that would allow the NYPD to deploy about 700 officers in a "disorder control" from the Strategic Response Group. They would also deploy a Level 4 alert, which would ensure eight officers and one sergeant that would be on alert in every precinct.
They didn't say whether the NYPD officers were willing to quit their jobs instead of arresting the former president.
On MSNBC Sunday, Dr. Mary Trump, the former president's niece, said that she's not as worried about New York or Washington, D.C., but in places that aren't prepared for events like this.
About half an hour following the first post, Trump put up another all-caps rant, falsely claiming that somehow D.A. Alvin Bragg was breaking the law because he interviewed Michael Cohen. Prosecutors can interview anyone they want for cases they're working, as can grand juries. He went on to call for Bragg to be "held accountable," claiming it was part of a crime. That crime, he claimed, was "interference in a presidential election," something that Trump is, ironically, very familiar with.