Proposed gun control legislation gains little traction in Va. General Assembly


Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Henrico, holds up an AK47-style rifle as he speaks for more control on such weapons during a floor speech to the Virginia House of Delegates at the State Capitol in Richmond, VA Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. ORG XMIT: RIC1301171258484610

Bob Brown | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Several pieces of gun ownership legislation were met with mostly negative reviews in Virginia’s House of Delegates and State Senate last week. But an attempt to close the so-called “gun show loophole” did garner limited success in the Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee.

The committee Friday voted 8-6 in favor of legislation that would require individuals purchasing weapons at gun shows to buy from licensed dealers, who are required to conduct background checks on buyers through the Virginia State Police. Non-licensed dealers may still attend gun shows, but they cannot sell firearms unless licensed dealers verify background checks of buyers.

Later that afternoon the committee reconvened and reconsidered the earlier vote, tabling the bill for consideration later this week.

Gun-control advocates saw the Republican-controlled Senate committee kill several Democrat-backed pieces of legislation, including a bill banning the sale of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

“Gun control is toast in Virginia,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun rights organization. “We have all kinds of gun restrictions already.”

In the wake of a mass shooting this past December in Newtown, Conn., mental-health legislation received bipartisan support. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, sponsored a bill banning the sale of guns to those found legally incompetent or mentally incapacitated. It passed unanimously.

Del. Joseph Morrissey, D-Henrico, has been outspoken in support of additional gun-control measures.

“First off I want to make people aware of what exactly these assault weapons are and what their capacity for danger is,” he said. “I also want to ban public possession of these assault weapons with high capacity magazines.”

Morrissey brandished an unloaded AK-47 on the House floor Thursday to make his point. Morrissey’s bill, which would have banned assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, failed in a House subcommittee before the start of the weekend.

“Right now law in Virginia is that in most of our cities anybody can walk down [the] middle of [the] street with 50 rounds of ammunition,” he said. “Further, you can walk in front of a high school, a middle school or an elementary school in front of [the school] with loaded weapons and I think that’s despicable and the law ought to change.”

Van Cleave said he thought gun-control legislation was not an effective way of reducing crime.

“It’s just a matter of understanding what will affect crime, and gun control doesn’t do it,” Van Cleave said. “If you look at Chicago, they have the most stringent gun control laws, but they have a huge crime rate. If gun control actually worked, Chicago would be Nirvana.”

Morrissey called criticisms that gun control is ineffective in preventing tragedy “utter nonsense.”

“I have the greatest empathy for those with mental illness but because they can carry, they can repeatedly fire [a gun] which causes mass carnage and loss of large numbers,” he said. “It’s definitely without a doubt the gun.”

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