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Virginia Senate panel kills proposal targeting gun restriction

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 5, 2010; B02

A Virginia Senate panel designed to eliminate House gun rights proposals went about its work efficiently Thursday, killing an attempted repeal of the state's 17-year-old ban on buying more than one handgun a month and several other bills.

The Senate Courts of Justice special subcommittee, which was composed of four Democrats and one Republican, voted 4 to 1 along party lines to table the gun-a-month repeal sponsored by Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William).

"I think that the NRA's agenda of any gun, anywhere, anytime has been dealt a blow," said Lori Haas, a gun-control activist whose daughter survived two superficial gunshot wounds in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

Gun rights supporters, citing Senate rules, said the subcommittee lacked the authority to kill the measures and left open the possibility of using parliamentary maneuvers to revive them before the full Courts of Justice Committee on Monday.

Calling the panel a "kangaroo court" and "death star committee," Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said the gun rights group had not given up hope on the bill this year but would work to elect a Senate that would be friendlier to its cause.

"They're really angry about this," Van Cleave said.

Advances in federal computerized background checks make the law unnecessary, Lingamfelter said. He also said that whole classes of purchasers, including more than 214,000 Virginians licensed to carry concealed weapons, were already exempt, and that existing laws prohibit the interstate sale of handguns except through federally licensed dealers. But he also recognized the long odds of leading the legislation out of the Senate subcommittee.

"I'm quite certain of its destiny," Lingamfelter said.

Gun-control advocates said that repealing the law would make it easier for people to buy many guns -- or to recruit straw purchasers to do so -- and ship them to urban areas on the East Coast. They reminded the senators that Virginia's rank as a supplier of illicit weapons dropped from first to sixth after the law's passage in 1993.

"Repealing that law would only provide criminals access to one gun a month," Haas said.

In addition to the gun-a-month repeal, HB49, the panel tabled HB69, submitted by Del. Charles W. Carrico Sr. (R-Grayson), which would fend off federal regulation of firearms and ammunition made, sold and possessed in Virginia.

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