Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell signed legislation Tuesday to repeal the state’s one-per-month limit on handgun purchases, lifting a 19-year-old cap put in place when the state was a notorious supplier to gun-traffickers along the East Coast.
Bills to that effect have passed the House in previous years but always died in Senate committees and subcommittees at the hands of Democrats and moderate Republicans. This year’s bill had no such trouble, given the presence of more conservative Republicans in the evenly divided Senate.
McDonnell, who voted for the purchase limit as a delegate but campaigned for governor on a promise to overturn it, signed the bill just days after participating in a conference call with relatives of those affected by the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007. The relatives had urged McDonnell not to sign the bill.
“He said, ‘I have a duty to protect the Second Amendment,’ ” said Lori Haas, a gun-control activist who participated in the call and whose daughter was injured during the Virginia Tech shooting. “The governor’s number one duty is to keep the citizens of Virginia safe. ... Expanding the ease with which criminals can get guns is certainly not going to keep Virginians safe.”
Supporters of the bill said the purchase limit was no longer needed now that background checks are conducted on gun buyers.
“It’s a law that should never been on the books, and we’re obviously happy to see it go,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.
Advocates of repeal also contended that that so many exceptions had been made to the law that it was essentially meaningless. Over the years, the law had been changed to exempt law-enforcement officials and people with concealed-weapons permits from the limit. If collectors anticipated picking up several firearms at gun or antiques shows, they could simply apply to the state police for a permit exempting them from the cap for seven days.