RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WJZ) — The Virginia Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would allow authorities to take guns away from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others, as the state moves closer to joining a growing number of states enacting so-called “red flag” gun laws.

The Democratic-led Senate voted for the bill despite fierce resistance from Republican lawmakers. GOP Sen. Amanda Chase called supporters of the legislation “traitors” and said the proposed law would embolden criminals and hurt law-abiding citizens.

This allows for police, relatives, roommates and health care professionals to flag someone they believe is a severe threat. A judge must approve the order. Only then can weapons be seized for one year. The order can be extended for six months longer if the court believes there is good cause after an additional hearing.

Democrats said the bill could help prevent mass shootings and said similar laws have worked well in 17 other states, including Maryland.

Maryland has had a red flag law on the books since October 2018. More than 788 people have been served with what is known here as an “extreme risk protective order” in the year the red flag law has been on the books. 

Virginia Democrats said the bill had been carefully crafted to preserve due process and protect individual rights.

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The bill now moves to the House. It is one of several gun-control measures the new Democratic majority at the General Assembly is set to pass this year.

The measure’s approval came two days after tens of thousands of gun-rights activists from around the country rallied peacefully at the state Capitol to protest plans by the state’s Democratic leadership to pass gun-control legislation.

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