RICHMOND – Virginians soon may be able to purchase more guns than they can carry for the first time in almost two decades. With the exception of law enforcement officials and some concealed-weapon permit holders, a 1993 state law has prohibited the purchase of more than one handgun every 30 days.
On Monday, the Senate passed a bill to revoke this law and the House had approved a similar measure last week. All members of the Fredericksburg area delegation voted in favor of repealing this law, and Sen. Bryce Reeves, a former law enforcement officer, co-sponsored the bill.
Sen. Bill Carrico, the chief patron of Senate Bill 323 and a long-time advocate for the right to bear arms, called the existing law “unnecessary and outdated.” He said Monday’s 21-19 vote was a victory for the Second Amendment. Carrico, a Republican from Galax in the southwestern tip of Virginia, said that technology negates the need for the state’s limit on gun purchases and that law-abiding citizens will benefit from such a change.
“Advanced technologies like instant background checks have made gun restrictions like this counter-productive,” said Carrico, a retired state trooper. “Over the years, it has become obvious that ‘one gun a month’ only affected responsible gun owners and didn’t deter criminals from obtaining handguns.”
Critics of lifting the limit said the change would create problems not only in the commonwealth but in other states as well. A 2010 report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ranked Virginia among the top suppliers of guns linked to crimes in New York.
“We’ve learned in the past that making it real easy to purchase guns has led Virginia guns to be used inordinately in crimes in New York City,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria. He added that he hopes “the ability to purchase more than 12 guns per year,” if passed, does not affect crime rates in or out of state. Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder signed the one-gun-a-month limit into law in 1993.
“I am very disappointed in the General Assembly’s actions toward repeal of one of Gov. Doug Wilder’s signature achievements,” said Tim Kaine, another previous governor. Kaine is now the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. “I was also disappointed to see that at least two of the individuals in this U.S. Senate race, George Allen and Bob Marshall, have already voiced support for repeal of this legislation,” Kaine said.
McDonnell has indicated that he would sign the bill. The 40 senators are evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Nineteen Republicans and two Democrats – Sens. Creigh Deeds of Bath County and John Edwards of Roanoke – voted in favor of SB 323.
The remaining 18 Democrats were joined by one Republican, Sen. Thomas Norment of Williamsburg, in voting against the bill. Carrico’s bill was co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Richard Black of Sterling, Thomas Garrett of Bumpass and Bryce Reeves. Deeds said he voted for the bill on constitutional grounds.
“I don’t see the reason why someone would need to own a gun a month. I don’t think there’s any reason for a person to have to buy a gun a year, but the fact is the Second Amendment guarantees people have a right to own and possess firearms unless they’re disqualified somehow,” Deeds said. “I think the limit by the government is arbitrary. I voted against it in ’93. Since 1993, since it became a law in Virginia, so many holes have been poked in it, so many exceptions have been made, that it doesn’t apply really to anybody except the people that are going to obey the law anyway.
SB 323 now goes to the House for consideration. The House has already passed its own measure to repeal the one-gun-a-month limit – House Bill 940, sponsored by Republican Delegates Scott Lingamfelter of Woodbridge, Todd Gilbert of Woodstock and Bob Marshall of Manassas. On Feb. 1, delegates voted 66-32 in favor of the bill – with Republicans overwhelmingly for it and Democrats overwhelmingly against it. HB 940 is now before the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.
How They Voted
“SB 323 Handguns; eliminates prohibition on purchasing more than one in a 30-day period.”
Floor: 02/06/12 Senate: Read third time and passed Senate (21-Y 19-N)
YEAS – Black, Blevins, Carrico, Deeds, Edwards, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner, Watkins – 21.
NAYS – Barker, Colgan, Ebbin, Favola, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, Miller, J.C., Miller, Y.B., Norment, Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Saslaw – 19.
Senate Votes to Repeal Gun Purchase Limit
Floor: 02/01/12 House: VOTE: PASSAGE (66-Y 32-N)
YEAS – Anderson, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Byron, Cline, Cole, Comstock, Cosgrove, Cox, J.A., Cox, M.K., Crockett-Stark, Dudenhefer, Edmunds, Fariss, Farrell, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Hugo, Iaquinto, Ingram, Joannou, Johnson, Jones, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, Lewis, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, Merricks, Miller, Minchew, Morefield, Morris, O’Bannon, O’Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pogge, Poindexter, Putney, Ramadan, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Scott, E.T., Sherwood, Stolle, Tata, Villanueva, Ware, R.L., Watson, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Yancey, Yost, Mr. Speaker – 66.
NAYS – Albo, Alexander, BaCote, Brink, Bulova, Carr, Dance, Englin, Filler-Corn, Herring, Hope, Howell, A.T., James, Keam, Kory, LeMunyon, Lopez, May, McClellan, McQuinn, Morrissey, Plum, Rust, Sickles, Spruill, Surovell, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Ware, O., Watts – 32.
NOT VOTING – Purkey, Scott, J.M. – 2.