Legislators convening for the 2015 Virginia General Assembly session this month have a great opportunity to make the Commonwealth a safer place for us all by voting in favor of the modest and responsible recommendations recently put forth by Governor Terry McAuliffe regarding gun violence prevention.
Governor McAuliffe has proposed six key pieces of legislation intended to keep firearms away from dangerous individuals. Three of the initiatives are regarding criminal background checks at gun shows. Currently, only Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers are required to run criminal background checks prior to selling or transferring firearms. Private sellers are exempt from this requirement leaving the door wide open for criminals to easily gain access to guns.
One of McAuliffe’s proposals would make unlawful purchases more difficult by preventing gun shows from advertising that they are not required to conduct background checks. Another proposal would give the State Police statutory authority to process voluntary background check requests of private sellers. The most substantive of the three proposals would close the existing loophole and require background checks for all purchases at gun shows.
None of these three proposals goes far enough. Ideally, criminal background checks would be universal; required on all firearms transactions including online sales. They are, however, a step in the right direction and would do much to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.
Another proposal is to return the limit of handgun purchases to one a month so the Commonwealth won't hold the dubious distinction of being one of the most prolific gun-running states in the nation. Other initiatives include a bill to keep guns from people subject to protective orders and one to revoke concealed handgun permits for parents delinquent on child support payments. This later proposal would affect the roughly 9,000 parents with such permits who are delinquent collectively on child support payments of over $15 million.
These six modest proposals would be very effective in reducing violent crime by keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. None of the proposals would prevent law-abiding citizens from owning weapons and none would infringe upon Second Amendment rights of responsible adults.
With the Republicans controlling both the House of Delegates and the Senate, there are bound to be disagreements with any legislation proposed by Democratic Governor McAuliffe. However, everyone should agree to these modest proposals to keep Virginians safe. It is not a partisan issue; it is a simple matter of public health and safety.
With great opportunity comes great responsibility. I sincerely hope the General Assembly embraces that responsibility and votes accordingly. If you agree, please contact your elected officials and tell them you are counting on them to vote in support of all proposals to curb gun violence in the Commonwealth.