Updated: Dec 8, 2019
If you are like me, you like making sure that you not only have the right to defend yourself…but also the proper tools. This is going to become increasingly difficult in the coming months in Virginia. Unfortunately, if Virginia Senate Bill SB16 (which has been pre-filed) moves forward in January, many of the popular weapons that we use to defend ourselves will be outlawed. While I fully support the many resistance efforts that are taking place, for those of who wish to plan ahead and be prepared with legal firearms for home defense, target shooting, and other 2A purposes, this is the course of action I suggest:
1) Go buy 20, 30, and even 100 round Mini 14 (Ruger Ranch Rifle) magazines. Support your local gun stores…or if you must, order online.
2) Buy magazines for handguns that you already own but may want additional standard (aka high capacity) magazines for. Go buy magazines for handguns you know you want in the future. I myself am a sucker for the HK USP Compact. I have been looking for an appropriately priced USP compact in 9 mil for a while now. In the future I will likely still be able to purchase this weapon, so long as it comes with only 10 round mags. Which is why, the smart move is for me to order some 13 round mags for this gun which I have not even bought yet so that when I do purchase it, I have some suitable magazines with a capacity of over 10 rounds.
3) Buy duplicate barrels without a threaded muzzle for any handguns that you currently own that have a threaded muzzle. You will need these to keep the weapon legal.
4) Consider buying a Ruger Ranch rifle. You could buy now while prices are still cheap, or if you want certainty, you can wait until after these laws pass….but expect to pay a premium. Again…support your local gun stores. Be sure to buy a ranch rifle as configured in the attached link. Other versions of this weapon will be banned under the law as currently written.
Why is this the course of action I advise? Well I certainly do not want to dissuade anyone from resistance and efforts to keep their current weapons. But I also want you to have something legal to use in future home defense situations against any who might attempt to take your life. Remember, even if you have a justified self-defense case, the law as proposed may turn you into a felon if you do it with an unlawful weapon. Under the law as currently proposed in SB16, the Ruger Ranch Rifle is a recipe that will remain legal. The Ranch Rifle will use popular 5.56 ammo and could still be used with standard 20 or 30 round magazines. In relevant part SB16 would ban your typical ARs, and AKs…but not the Ruger Ranch. See below for language from the bill with application to the Ranch. Note, that to be outlawed under SB16 a rifle would have to have a “yes” under the first three elements and at least one “yes” under the additional elements. Because the Ruger Ranch Rifle can answer “no” to each of the additional elements, under the bill as currently written the Ruger would remain a legal weapon.
2. A semi-automatic center-fire rifle (yes) that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material (yes) that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine (yes) and has one of the following characteristics: (i) a folding or telescoping stock (no); (ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the rifle (no); (iii) a thumbhole stock (no); (iv) a second handgrip or a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand (no); (v) a bayonet mount (no); (vi) a grenade launcher (no); (vii) a flare launcher (no); (viii) a silencer (no); (ix) a flash suppressor (no); (x) a muzzle brake (no); (xi) a muzzle compensator (no); (xii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting (a) a silencer, (b) a flash suppressor, (c) a muzzle brake, or (d) a muzzle compensator; or (xiii) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (xii) (no);
And with the Ruger Ranch Rifle, you can still use previously owned standard capacity mags under SB16 (as currently written). See below language from the bill.
A. Any person who imports, sells, barters, or transfers any firearm magazine that is designed to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
While future purchase, sale, trade, or transfer of a magazine with a capacity of over 10 rounds will be outlawed, the law actually allows you to keep standard capacity magazines that you currently own (although in most cases the weapons that the magazines go to will be outlawed). For this reason, tis the season to buy Ruger mags. Lots and lots of Ruger mags. Because if the law goes through as written, this will be one of the combos that will afford you a decent method of self-defense and will eat up all that 5.56 ammo that you have lying around.
This same logic may also apply to some handguns. If you have a particular handgun that you know you want, and that may remain legal after the law is in effect if sold with ten round mags and no other offending features- well then go ahead and buy the standard capacity mags for it now. Possession of the mags alone is not a crime and purchasing them now will allow you to have standard capacity mags for your weapon, even if you buy the gun at a later date. If you do this, keep the receipt for the magazines so that you can PROVE you did not purchase them outside of the state and transfer them into the state after the law was in effect (as that would be a misdemeanor). Also, do not get carried away and buy magazines for guns you do not actually plan to purchase. Keep in mind, that after the law goes into effect, you will not be able to sell or dispose of the magazines, so make sure they are for guns you actually want. Do not go out and buy these magazines expecting to sell them later for a higher price. That would be a crime.
Finally, if you have a handgun with a threaded barrel, plan on disposing of that barrel and switching it out with a barrel that is not threaded to accept a suppressor or muzzle. Get rid of the threaded barrel before the law goes into effect to avoid falling into the “catchall” that “includes any part or combination of parts designed or intended to convert, modify, or otherwise alter a firearm into an assault firearm.” The issue with this language is that if you still have the threaded barrel sitting around in a parts bin, you could still be charged with violating the law. Plan ahead to make sure you have at least some legal weapons to stay in the fight with.
Stay tuned for updates as these laws evolve and the legal fight against them formulates. And stay safe.
By: Gilbert Ambler, Esq.
Gilbert Ambler is the owner of Ambler Law Offices, LLC (amblerlawoffices.com). He practices criminal defense in Virginia and Pennsylvania, with a particular focus on the Second Amendment and other constitutional issues.