Stephen Paddock’s Las Vegas assault rifle killing spree has again highlighted the dangers of Virginia's and America’s much-too-lax firearms environment. Virginians know the dangers of high-powered weapons having experienced snipers Malvo and Muhammad and the Virginia Tech massacre. Some of us have been steadily, but unsuccessfully, trying to pass reasonable firearms violence prevention laws in Virginia for years.
For example, after Jared Loughner’s 2011 attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, I cosponsored legislation to prohibit the sale of firearm ammunition magazines that hold more than 20 bullets. The legislature has rejected the bill every year since.
In 2015, a Fairfax attorney told me about a client he defended in a mental commitment proceeding in which his client was found to be a danger to himself or others. Virginia law prohibits these people from obtaining a concealed weapon permit or possessing a firearm, but the law does not prohibit the possession of ammunition. I tried to prohibit mentally-incapacitated people from purchasing or possessing ammunition, but the legislature struck it down.
In 2015, I fought to prohibit Virginia from recognizing concealed weapon permits from other states unless their permits contained the same restrictions required by Virginia law — like those adjudged insane subject to protective order, convicted of two misdemeanors in five years, convicted of assault or sexual battery, addicted to drugs, convicted of driving while intoxicated in the last three years or dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces.
Attorney General Mark Herring cancelled numerous reciprocity agreements with other states for these reasons, but months later in 2015, the legislature passed legislation requiring reciprocity. Today, a non-felon, Virginia resident who cannot obtain a concealed carry permit in Virginia can obtain one in Florida and use it here.
Last year, I introduced legislation requiring background checks for all gun purchases. This would close the gun show loophole and ensure that a felon could not evade purchase restrictions by simply buying guns on eBay or other gun-sale websites. My bill was killed 12-3 in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. While it seems likely that bump stocks will be banned now that 58 innocent people were mowed down, I am not optimistic we will see additional safety improvements in the short term.
I will continue to work for reasonable laws to prohibit firearm violence in Virginia and I welcome any ideas from my constituents. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.