RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe has proposed an amendment to restore Virginia’s “one handgun a month” law. The amendment would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor for anyone other than a licensed firearms dealer to purchase more than one handgun within a 30-day period.
Virginia limited handgun purchases to one a month in 1993 when Democrats controlled the General Assembly and Douglas Wilder was governor. Back then, McAuliffe said, Virginia had the reputation of being “the gun-running capital of the East Coast.”
The law was repealed in 2012 when Republicans controlled the House and Senate and Bob McDonnell was governor. As a result, McAuliffe said Monday, “Virginia is once again becoming the go-to state for criminals to purchase weapons in bulk.”
Earlier this month, 24 people, including 22 from Virginia, were arrested on gun-smuggling charges. They transported more than 200 weapons north on Interstate 95 to New York, law enforcement officials said.
According to prosecutors, one of the suspects was recorded as saying, “There’s no limit to how many guns I can go buy from the store. I can go get 20 guns from the store tomorrow. . . . I can do that Monday through Friday. . . . They might start looking at me, but in Virginia, our laws are so little, I can give guns away.”
New York officials have urged Virginia to take action.
“When you hear a trafficker boasting about the weak gun laws in Virginia, it is crystal clear that this needs to be addressed,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez told The New York Times.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, said he supports reinstating the “one handgun a month” law.
“This is a great step to restore a common-sense measure that never should have been repealed in the first place,” Herring said. “Virginia’s weak gun laws make it too easy for guns to get into the hands of criminals, making our families, communities, and especially our law enforcement officers less safe, not to mention the heartbreak and damage these guns cause in neighboring states.”
McAuliffe proposed amending Senate Bill 1023 to include a one-a-month limit on handgun purchases in Virginia. The bill would prohibit Virginia from sharing information about its concealed handgun permit holders with states that do not recognize Virginia’s permits as valid within their borders.
Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford, sponsored SB 1023. He called the governor’s amendment disingenuous.
“He’s just making a game out of it,” Stuart told The Washington Post. “It’s disheartening to me that the governor is more concerned about the people in New York City than he is about Virginia citizens who are actually . . . playing by the rules.”
The General Assembly will reconvene on April 5 to consider McAuliffe’s vetoes and recommendations. Republicans control the House and Senate and are unlikely to agree to the “one handgun a month” proposal, Stuart said.
Words By Amelia Heymann via VCU Capital News Service