Philip VanCleave, the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), argued before a state Senate committee Monday that stalkers and domestic abusers convicted of misdemeanors should not lose their gun rights, as such a punishment would be “silly.”
VanCleave, who heads one of the state’s most prominent and vocal gun-rights organizations, was testifying before the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, in opposition to Senate Bill 510. The bill would prohibit “any person who is convicted of stalking, sexual battery, or assault and battery of a family member involving the use of force from possessing, transporting, or carrying a firearm or any other weapon for a period of five years following his conviction.” His organization “strongly opposes” the measure because it believes misdemeanors “are not meant to take away someone’s civil rights because, by definition, they are minor crimes.” While it is generally illegal for convicted felons to purchase or possess guns, many people convicted of stalking, domestic assault, or other similar misdemeanors currently have no such restrictions.
In a video from the hearing, posted Tuesday by Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D) pressed VanCleave about his position:
SASLAW: So you think that, if you go out and you slap your wife around and all it is is a misdemeanor, you shouldn’t lose your weapon after that. Is that what you’re telling me?
VANCLEAVE: Correct. If she slaps me, I wouldn’t expect her to lose her gun rights either. … for [people to] lose their rights, that’s silly.
Watch the video:
VanCleave in the past has made news for an armed protest at a public library that prohibited concealed weapons (which he likened to prohibiting African Americans), advocating for a bill to allow people to drink while carrying concealed guns, and pushing to allow guns on Virginia’s college campuses.