Commentary: State Fails, Time for Local Action

Commentary: State Fails, Time for Local Action

The March For Our Lives put a spotlight on the country’s and Virginia’s permissive firearms regulation culture. The young people’s outburst of civic activism and the new efforts of others who have not been very politically active is inspiring.

Historically, I have proudly supported reasonable, bipartisan measures to allow Sunday hunting, reduce fees and cut paperwork for concealed carry gun holders. Unfortunately, sensible measures to prevent firearm violence have been at a stalemate in Virginia. Until there is broader political change in Virginia, we must take some steps at the local level.

Currently, Virginia law allows local governments to ban loaded shotguns and rifles, including semi-automatic rifles like AR-15’s, on public highways. Nineteen localities, including Alexandria and Loudoun and Fauquier counties, have adopted this approach. I can think of no reason anyone needs to carry a loaded AR-15 or a shotgun on a Northern Virginia highway.

Although, I raised this issue with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2015, they chose not to act. I have asked them to revisit this again. In Prince William County, Woodbridge Supervisor Frank Principi has agreed to propose an ordinance.

Since 2009, I have also advocated other measured approaches to reduce firearm violence: In 2012, I cosponsored legislation to limit ammunition magazines to 20 rounds after Jared Loughner shot Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. A committee killed the bill on a 5-0 bipartisan vote.

Current Virginia law prohibits people who have been adjudicated mentally ill and involuntarily committed or ordered into outpatient mental health treatment by a court from owning a firearm. In 2014, I introduced legislation to add ammunition to that prohibition. A committee killed that bill.

Since 2014, I have repeatedly introduced legislation requiring universal background checks, including The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s signature universal background check bill. It contains numerous fair exceptions but died every session, often on a bipartisan vote.

In the 2015 Session, I fought measures to grant universal reciprocity for out-of-state concealed weapon permits by adding requirements that reciprocal states have restrictions paralleling Virginia’s prohibitions for the mentally ill, drug addicts and dealers, domestic assault convicts, violent criminals, sexual batterers, drunk drivers, those illegally present in the United States, people dishonorably discharged from the military, individuals with pending felonies and fugitives. The House of Delegates killed every one of my attempts on a mostly party-line vote. Unfortunately, former Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a universal reciprocity bill into law after Attorney General Mark Herring invalidated existing reciprocity agreements with over a dozen states and forced a compromise.

In 2016, I introduced legislation prohibiting anyone on the Terrorist Watch List from purchasing a firearm. It died in committee.

This session, I also supported Sen. Adam Ebbin’s effort session to ban bump stocks. The Senate Courts Committee passed the bill, but the Senate Finance Committee killed it. The House of Delegates killed an identical bill.

I fought the repeal of Virginia’s “One Gun a Month” law enacted in 2012. I have also fought bills to allow guns in churches, restrict employers’ ability to limit concealed firearms on their property, streamline the sale of machine guns and flamethrowers, allow “constitutional carry” (concealed carry without a permit), allow firearms in airports, give fired prosecutors concealed weapon privileges without permits, make concealed carry permit information secret and to make Virginia a “Stand Your Ground” state.

My efforts are examples of reasonable steps we can take to prevent future, senseless gun violence. Gun violence must stop, as those who marched a few weeks ago across the country so eloquently expressed, especially those impressive teenagers who stepped forward and pointed a finger at the elected officials who dodge and dawdle.

Please contact me at if you have any feedback. It is an honor to serve as your state senator.