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Dems push for gun control
Thursday, January 16, 2014
RICHMOND (AP) — Buoyed by the results of last year’s elections, Virginia gun control advocates and Democratic lawmakers say they are hopeful they can enact new measures restricting gun ownership by criminals and the mentally ill.
The proposals, outlined Wednesday at the Capitol, are intended to require background checks for all commercial gun purchases, ban gun ownership for five years for individuals convicted of stalking or sexual battery, and limit gun access for individuals who have been involuntarily treated for mental health issues.
Lawmakers and gun advocates said those are “common sense” measures that enjoy broad support among the public, which they said is reflected in recent polling and elections.
“This is not about the right to bear arms, this is about making sure the people who do not have the right to bear arms don’t bear arms,” said Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico.
The bills are likely to face stiff opposition in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, where GOP leaders have said they want to focus this legislative session on economic development and education instead of hot-button social issues.
“Most people are satisfied with the current gun laws in Virginia,” says House Majority Leader Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights.
But Democratic lawmakers are optimistic that their party’s recent electoral success — Democrats won all three major statewide offices last year — puts them in a good position to promote their agenda.
Echoing similar language used earlier this week when unveiling a new push for gay rights, McEachin, said he believed the “tide is beginning to shift” in Virginia on public attitudes toward gun regulations.
New Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has said he supports some increased gun restrictions, but he has not yet commented on these specific bills.
McAuliffe received significant financial backing during last year’s gubernatorial campaign from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an outspoken gun control advocate.
Advocates and Democratic lawmakers also said the resistance of GOP leaders to addressing issues like gun control is “disingenuous” given some of the socially conservative measures that have passed in recent sessions.
“So when they get their way it’s fine and we’re not supposed to counter or fight back,” said Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington. “I don’t know where they are coming from, I think it’s crazy.”
Republicans have filed several pro-gun rights bills this session, including one that would allowed concealed handgun permit holders to carry guns in the non-secure areas of airport terminals.