RICHMOND — A few weeks after police recorded an alleged gunrunner boasting about how lax Virginia’s gun laws are, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has proposed an amendment that would restore the state’s policy of allowing no more than one handgun purchase per month.
“Virginia is once again becoming the go-to state for criminals to purchase weapons in bulk,” McAuliffe said in announcing the proposed amendment. He cited the gunrunning case from earlier this month, in which 24 people — nearly all from Virginia — were charged with smuggling more than 200 weapons to New York City.
McAuliffe attached the amendment to a Senate bill that prohibits sharing law enforcement information with states that do not recognize Virginia’s concealed-weapons permits. That bill, passed by the General Assembly last month and sent to McAuliffe for action, was sponsored by Sen. Richard H. Stuart (R-Stafford), who was not happy with the amendment.
“He’s just making a game out of it,” Stuart said. “It’s disheartening to me that the governor is more concerned about the people in New York City than he is about Virginia citizens who are actually . . . playing by the rules.”
McAuliffe is attempting to revive a law that was championed by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder (D) in the early 1990s, when Virginia had built a reputation as a gunrunning capital. Wilder’s bill, enacted in 1993, made it illegal to buy more than one handgun in a 30-day period in the state.
The law lasted until 2012, when Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) signed its repeal.
Stuart said he doubted the current amendment would have a chance of passing the Senate or House of Delegates, both of which are controlled by Republicans.
His original bill is intended to protect Virginians who have concealed-weapons permits and travel to states that do not honor them, Stuart said.
If a police officer in Maryland, for instance, checks a Virginia plate in the law enforcement database and sees that the driver has a concealed-weapons permit, the officer could make an excuse to stop the driver and make an arrest simply because the concealed weapon is not legal in that state, Stuart said.
That bill passed the state Senate with substantial Democratic support. The General Assembly will consider amendments and vetoes from the governor in a session on April 5.