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Will VA See Tougher Gun Laws in 2013?

Northern Virginia lawmakers will likely introduce or reintroduce gun bills at 2013 legislative session. Is this the year some of them will pass?

In the wake of Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Virginia Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) says she will reintroduce a bill that would close the commonwealth's gun show loophole, which allows people to buy firearms at gun shows without a background check. 

"It's tragic," Howell says about the shooting that killed 20 schoolchildren and six adults. "I don't know whether I'm more angry or sad over it. I have introduced this bill in the past, and so have other people, but I'm hopeful there will be a better chance of passage this year." 

Closing the gun show loophole is among several gun bills in Virginia that repeatedly have been introduced and died in committee or are otherwise defeated. There are already 13 firearms bills prefiled for the 2013 session that are carryovers of bills from 2012.

"Virginia was the scene of a great gun tragedy," said Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston), referring to the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech. "In spite of that, though, we have seen constant erosion of limited gun laws. We saw the one-handgun-a month-law repealed this year. You can now have guns in restaurants. It is time to repeal all that."

Plum says gun laws are among the most divisive issues in a state like Virginia. The key lies in persuading downstate legislators to co-sponsor bills that would make guns tougher to obtain, Plum says.

"Not many people are willing to take on the gun lobby," he said.

Del. Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon), who was a sponsor of a 2011 bill (that died in committee) about limiting the number of bullets in a clip, says the attitudes of residents in Northern Virginia need to be better represented in state policy. 

"In the national election, Virginia, from Loudoun and Prince William counties north votes like Massachusetts," he said. "From that line and south, it votes like Kentucky. We ought to be able to keep guns out of bars, but the state says we can't."

In 2012, Gov. Bob McDonnell repealed a 19-year-old law that limited gun purchases to one per month. In 2010, Virginia became one of four states allowing guns in bars.

However, Del. Dave Albo (R-Springfield) points out Virginia has also toughened some firearms laws in recent years. 

"After Virginia Tech, we made changes to the law that fixed the problem that [the shooter] was able to get weapons even though he had a history of mental illness," Albo said.

Albo also said lawmakers don't only vote on party lines. He voted to keep the one-gun-a-month law, for instance.

"No one wants to see anyone get killed by criminals," he said. "Even if we ban guns in America, there are 100 million guns out there. Sixty percent of people in the U.S. own guns. I am interested in people giving me ideas that we can look at, that actually do something."

Howell and Surovell say they have both heard from a handful of constituents since Friday. Their message: Guns are too available and it is time to act.

"I hope at this point we have reached a tipping point," Howell said. "One thing everyone agrees on is that access should be limited to keeping guns from mentally ill people and those with a history of violence.

"There are other things that need to be done as well," Howell said. "I think the federal level needs to look at restricting assault weapons and look more into improving mental health programs." 

Chipperson December 19, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Unfortunately gun control is only one small fraction of the issue - but it's the only one getting any attention.
Robert Jeffery December 19, 2012 at 01:32 PM
There is no "Gun Show Loophole." A private citizen can sell a gun to another private citizen without a background check. The exchange can be conducted in a private home, a car, a parking lot or inside a building where a "gun show" is being held.What is she going to introduce? A law that says that any gun exchange be predicated on a background check? Does that mean that I have to have my adult son background checked before I give him a gun as a gift?
Jim Hubbard December 19, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Gun control is only one of many issues facing Americans where no real solutions figure in the public debate. The ideas proposed by Plum, Howell and others in the legislature will not get guns off the streets and out of our homes. That does not mean, however, that there are no real solutions. British law requires every gun owner to obtain a license and imposes stringent requirements for obtaining a firearm license, including demonstrating that one has a legitimate need for a gun. "Self-defense" is not considered a legitimate need. As a result, gun violence and gun murders are, by American standards, virtually unknown in Britain. If you really want to stop massacres like the one in Newtown, only a regime like that in Britain will do the trick.
Joy Charles December 19, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Lets talk about mental health! For the love of GOD, these proposed laws will just push gun sales underground. If only the answers were that easy! Good grief.
JAK December 19, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Why would you even propose a British ideal, when our whole purpose of being was in direct opposition to them? Our 2nd Amendment is our "Legitimate need", there need be none other. I don't know about you, but I strictly adore, support, and will defend and if need be die for our Constitutional Bill of Rights. I may not agree with every single way that people utilize their rights, including vulgar speech and vile diatribes, but I will absolutely defend your right to partake in it. I for one have been taught the responsibilities and use of firearms since a young age, and as a Boy Scout I earned my Rifle Marksmanship Merit Badge with amazing accuracy. My family has always trained in and used firearms, both personally and as part of their careers, including in combat, and as an individual myself who also used one before in self-defense against a home invader, I can tell you that I pray thanks everyday for my right to possess such means. Studying history you'll learn that the 2nd Amendment exists as it does for issues above-and-beyond simple hunting, plinking, target shooting, and even home-defense, for it exists as the most basic form of checks-and-balances against tyranny. Every major dictator in history who trampled their people did so after disarming them first, and our Founding Fathers knew this. As per the violence, it's a societal issue of the values we instill in our children.
JAK December 19, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Firearms were much easier to obtain when most of our parents were growing up, and yet, the streets were also safer! Nowadays we have more restrictions, but it's more dangerous. Summarizing that, you see that guns aren't the problem, but people are. Those who don't victimize others do not deserve to have their rights infringed upon.
Robert Jeffery December 19, 2012 at 05:12 PM
"How a politician stands on the second amendment tells you how he or she views you as an individual; as a trustworthy and productive citizen, or as a part of an unruly crowd that needs to be lorded over, controlled, supervised, and taken care of." Suzanna Hupp, Texas State Representative.
Jim Hubbard December 19, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Even a casual reading of the Second Amendment would suggest that it has to do with militias and not with individuals owning guns for their own private purposes. Moreover a wealth of data exists that introducing a gun into your home offers little or no defense against intruders but instead puts you and your family at increased risk. One family member is far more likely to use a gun against another family member than against an intruder. But don't take my word for it, go ask a law enforcement professional about the wisdom of bringing a gun into your home. It's not a coincidence that law enforcement professionals are some of the strongest supporters of gun control.
Carol Lewis December 19, 2012 at 05:22 PM
JAK, Nancy Lanza didn't victimize anyone but her son did, including her. Guns are indeed part of the problem.
the-stix December 20, 2012 at 10:45 AM
Every new gun law should should include provisions for also dealing with the related mental health ,entertainment and gaming, and parenting issues. Those that say this is too hard are clearly only willing to deal with the proverbial 'pimple on the elephant'. btw, it also might be useful to enforce the laws already on the books!
Andrea B December 20, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Robert: 6 educators and 20 children were killed in an elementary school, and you are arguing about semantics? Fine, don't call it the "gun-show loophole;" call it the personal sales of firearms loophole, and yes, I think it should be regulated. We need licenses to drive cars, to practice medicine -- why not one to purchase a gun? JAK: This link provides some good info on whether more people are victims of gun violence today than in the past: http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2012/12/16/searching-for-hard-data-on-guns-and-violence/
Robert Jeffery December 20, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Andrea: It is lamentable that these people died at the hands of a deranged person. The gun was the tool used to cause this suffering, carnage and death, just as a box truck loaded with AMFO was the tool used to killed children in a daycare facility on Oklahoma City. This tool, the firearm, makes a 90 pound woman equal to a 300 pound man or a 60 pound rabid dog.. It is a method of self-defense. The ownership of a firearm is protected by the second amendment to the US Constitution. The Right to Keep and Bare Arms SHALL NOT be Infringed. I see nothing in that document about protecting the right to operate a buggy or practice medicine. This argument is flawed and here is how. The second amendment, by extension, allows that we (that would be you and me) the right to defend ourselves from other individuals and an overreaching government. The SCOTUS said as much. Adding a waiting period, prevents a woman with a restraining order from obtaining a firearm, to defend herself from that person that the court(s) ordered to be restrained, in a timely manner. (The police are not required to protect her...) Requiring licensing, training or both further delays her from gaining the protection she requires. Additionally, licensing and training adds additional cost that may (would) put the purchase of such protection out of reach of a poor person, as would adding additional taxes on the gun and ammunition.
Chris December 20, 2012 at 05:26 PM
You are correct that firearms were much easier to obtain when our parents, however they weren't buying up arsenals of semi-automatic large ammunition clip assault weapons. That's the difference today.
Andrea B December 20, 2012 at 06:24 PM
The second amendment was written more than 200 years ago. It should not block society's ability to keep itself safe through gun-control legislation. Obviously, we have a fundamental difference in opinion as to whether guns do make society safer. I would argue no; I assume you would argue yes. I hope that airing opinions and differences on forums like these can lead to compromise. Personally, the only need I see for anyone to have a gun is to hunt, although that of course would not be my cup of tea. However, I understand some people think guns make them safer or simply enjoy using them for target practice. I am not looking to eliminate their right to do so. I'm just asking for some control on their purchase and use.
Joe Brenchick December 20, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Jim Hubbard: obviously you read the Second amendment a little too casually as everyone from our Founding Fathers to the Supreme Court agree that the right of the people is an individual, not a collective right. Just like all of the other amendments are individual, not collective rights. The rest of your statement is a merely parroting of Handgun Control, Inc. talking points.
Joe Brenchick December 20, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Since firearms are almost impossible to legally obtain now in Great Britain, homicides via firearms are almost nonexistent. However, violent crime/assaults have skyrocketed.
the-stix December 20, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Why is it that gun control advocates only seem to come out in droves when there is a tragedy such as in Connecticut, but seldom if ever for inner-city gun crime which is significant and with us every day? I understand in Chicago for example, where gun control laws are some of the strictest in the nation, there have been near 500 gun deaths already this year. Certainly this is a question to ponder, especially about liberals and progressives in general and about the value of more laws in specific.

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