The Virginia Senate moved Monday to strike down Senate Bill 1132 , a bill which would have allowed individuals to carry concealed handguns on school property outside of regular hours.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Buckingham, and lost in a vote of 18 to 20. Three Republicans joined the Democratic opposition.
Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, said she opposed the bill and felt passing the bill would have made dangerous environments around schools.
“Allowing guns onto school property will make our children less safe,” Favola said in a press release. “I don’t doubt the good intentions of lawful concealed carriers, but accidents happen and firearms can kill. Instead of tempting fate by bringing guns into schools, we should be working to enact common-sense laws that keep guns out of the hands of small children, criminals and the mentally ill.”
Lori Haas, Virginia state director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said the often-cited second amendment right to bear arms is a tool often employed by gun lobbyists to advance their case.
“If you’re going to ask the question, ‘Do you support taking guns away and tramping on the second amendment?’ people are going to say no,” Haas said. “But if you ask the question, ‘Do you think that convicted criminals, domestic abusers should have firearms?’ everybody is going to say no.”
Haas said she is confident Virginia will enact safer gun laws in the future.
“The average, everyday citizen understands what we’re trying to do make our families safer and our neighborhoods safer,” Haas said. “Its not an either-or proposition, as the gun lobbyists like to make it.”
Since coming into office, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has introduced a series of gun violence prevention reforms. One such bill, approved by the Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Monday is SB 1441. If passed by the House, it will allow individuals without a federal firearms license to ask state police to conduct on-site background checks on purchasers at Virginia gun shows.
SB 1132 faced support along party lines in addition to support from the National Rifle Association and the Virginia Citizens Defense League. VCDL President Phillip Van Cleave said firearms rights advocates are growing in number and becoming more politically vocal.
“We’re still on a strong upswing in terms of the number of people who favor firearms rights,” Van Cleave said. “We now have 400,000 permit holders, and the number of gun holders go beyond that. The movement to protect gun rights is very strong. The vote was very close.”
Van Cleave said the VCDL will be working this upcoming year to send more firearms rights bills to the legislature. He said one initiative would expand the right to carry concealed firearms on college campuses. Liberty University already permits all students, faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons.
“We want to do that for all universities,” Van Cleave said. “If you have a permit, you can do it. You have to be 21. These are the good guys, you want them around.”
However, Haas said the academic community is against the movement to bring guns to schools — one of the many reasons why the bill failed.
“The K-12 schools are currently gun-free zones, so most of the school systems were opposed to this bill,” Haas said. “Firearms have no place on the playground.”
Some University students voiced opposition to the idea of allowing concealed weapons on Grounds. Third-year college student Henry Reynolds said it would not benefit the community.
“I don’t think that the bill would promote the general welfare of the community,” Reynolds said. “I think Virginia should have background checks for firearms.”