Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order Oct. 15 pushing for tighter enforcement of gun control laws.
The order prohibits the open-carry of firearms in state executive branch offices, ordered the Director of the Department of General Services to propose regulations to ban the carrying of concealed weapons in executive offices and established a task force to increase successful prosecution gun crimes.
This order will provide safety for the public and justice for those suspected of using guns to commit violent acts should they be liable, McAuliffe said.
“The actions directed in this executive order will help our Commonwealth better enforce Virginia laws designed to keep guns away from people who would use them for harm,” McAuliffe said in a press release.
Following the order, Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker called on Republicans to stop fighting gun control measures.
"Democrats around the Commonwealth applaud Governor McAuliffe for stepping up to the fight to prevent gun violence and for showing true courage on this commonsense issue,” she said in a press release. “It's time for Republicans to stop standing in the way of efforts to prevent dangerous people from owning guns."
Republican reactions to the order varied. House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, said he looks forward to making investments in mental health care that aim to impact gun safety, while House Deputy Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said the order leaves “law-abiding citizens vulnerable to senseless acts of violence.”
The National Rifle Association said it supports further efforts to bolster resources for mental health support and to enforce laws already on the books. Still, it criticized the executive order.
“The governor doesn’t need an Executive Order to enforce laws already on the books,” NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said in an email statement. . “It’s what the NRA has been calling for all along — for officials to enforce existing regulations and prosecute the criminal offenders to the full extent of the law.”
McAuliffe needs to support a solution addressing problems with the mental health care system, Dalseide said.
“If Governor McAuliffe and his former boss Hillary Clinton were serious about preventing tragedies like Virginia Tech [and] Roanoke instead of exploiting them, they’d address our nation’s broken mental health system — that’s the real loophole,” Dalseide said.
The executive order ensures the enforcement of existing state laws, University Democrats Vice President Samuel Tobin said, and is in direct opposition to what he describes as pressure from special interest groups not to prosecute gun crimes.
“What the governor is doing with this executive order is making sure that the people who are not supposed to have guns according to the state law, don’t have guns,” Tobin said. “If you really look at what the NRA says — enforce the laws of the book — I don’t get how you could be opposed.”
Jay Boyd, chairman of the U.Va. College Republicans, declined to comment.