The Senate panel that deals with matters relating to guns, judges and criminal laws has now killed a bill to reinstate Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month law. 88.9 WCVE’s Saraya Wintersmith reports from the State Capitol.
The rule was in place for nearly two decades before its repeal in 2012.
The measure is one that both former Governor Doug Wilder and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney have called for reinstating.
“There’s no reason that a person needs to have more than 12 guns in a year to go purchase. I think that’s just something that's common sense that needs to be brought back, it’s practical,” said Mayor Stoney.
Last March, when 17 Richmonders were among the two dozen arrested in an interstate gun-trafficking ring, Mayor Stoney said the incident wasn't good for the city's reputation, but he also wasn’t surprised by the bust given Virginia's lax gun laws.
Between June and September of last year, the Richmond Police Department confiscated more than 130 illegal guns as part of its Summer Fugitive Firearms Initiative.
Stoney spoke passionately about gun trafficking and gun safety laws at a round table hosted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“When people roll up to New York and they laughing at how many guns they were able to collect in Richmond, that should be a problem for everyone. And to think those guns are all going in the hands of legal, law-abiding citizens, that's laughable, because you know it's not," he said. "We need the General Assembly to step up."
Last year, a Quinnipiac survey of about 1100 Virginia voters showed almost 2/3 in favor of reinstating the one-gun-a-month rule. But the measure went down on an 11-4 vote, and so far, few of the measures supported by gun safety advocates in various parts of the state to have cleared committee.
A Senate bill to re-instate the law was carried by Democrat Louise Lucas who sits on the committee and said she didn't expect the measure to pass.
“I introduced the same bill last year, it failed, I expected the same thing again this year, but I felt duty-bound to introduce the legislation because that’s what my constituents want,” said Lucas after the meeting ended.
Republican Senator Glen Sturtevant represents part of Richmond and was one of the 11 votes against the measure Wednesday night (1/17). “I think when it comes to any gun control legislation that impacts constitutional rights we need to be very careful about whatever that legislation is,” said Sturtevant.
In 2015 a federal appeals court struck down the District of Colombia’s one-gun-a-month rule as unconstitutional. Senator Sturtevant says weighing constitutional rights is important to passing legislation.
“Whether it's the first amendment, whether it's the fourth amendment, whether it's the second amendment. And I think there are questions as to the efficacy of a one-handgun-a-month policy. I think other localities around the country that have the same, or similar gun control meaasures in place are not necessarily made safer by it, and so I think it's very important that we are prudent when considering measures that would restirct constitutional rights,” said Sturtevant.
Even though the newly sworn-in Governor has articulated gun safety as a major priority for his administration, it remains unclear if there will be any bi-partisan collaboration on any of the measures brought before the General Assembly this year.
Saraya Wintersmith, WCVE News, Capitol Square.