RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday will call for a package of gun restrictions in Virginia, including a renewal of the state’s one-a-month limit on handgun purchases and a requirement that buyers at gun shows undergo background checks.
McAuliffe will also propose keeping guns away from people convicted of crimes related to domestic violence and revoking concealed-handgun permits for parents who are behind on child-support payments.
McAuliffe (D) will unveil his plan during a speech in Arlington County the day after the two-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, according to a news release provided to The Washington Post.
While campaigning for governor last year, McAuliffe veered from the playbook of Democrats seeking statewide office, pushing openly for gun control and other liberal causes, including abortion rights and action to mitigate climate change.
Such issues had been off-limits even for many Democrats in the historically conservative state, but McAuliffe capitalized on Virginia’s changing demographics, speaking directly to liberal and moderate voters in the Washington suburbs who helped Democrats sweep last year’s three statewide races.
It will be harder for McAuliffe to persuade the Republican-controlled General Assembly to give up any ground on Second Amendment issues, especially as some fend off challenges from the right. But the governor is betting that the mass shootings at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn., and at Virginia Tech in 2007 make it politically toxic for Republicans in more moderate districts to oppose the measures.
“As Governor, there is no greater responsibility than ensuring the health and safety of the citizens I serve,” McAuliffe said in the release. “Our Commonwealth and our nation have seen too many tragedies as a result of dangerous weapons getting into the hands of the wrong people. These common-sense proposals will keep guns out of the hands of criminals, will keep our communities safe, and will help to build a new Virginia economy.”
Shortly after taking office, McAuliffe attempted to shore up his base by amending a GOP-backed handgun bill. The change, which would have required Virginians who store guns in their cars to use “locked” containers, was rejected by House Republicans, and McAuliffe then vetoed the bill.
Monday’s gun-control proposals represent a more methodical approach by the governor, who in May signed a bill sponsored by Sen. Bryce E. Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) allowing gun dealers to use a state police database to see if a gun has been used in a felony before they make a purchase. The law takes effect Jan. 1.
The news release from McAuliffe’s office, which says the governor is a “gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment,” praises the limit as a way to “prevent dangerous people from stockpiling and trafficking dangerous weapons.”
Gun rights advocates have argued that restricting ownership would not have stopped high-profile Virginia shootings for which mentally ill individuals were responsible, such as the Virginia Tech case and the tragedy that struck Sen. R. Creigh Deeds and his family last year.
After the Bath County Democrat’s son stabbed his father and then fatally shot himself, lawmakers passed a package of bills, which the governor signed, aimed at improving access to mental-health services.
Citing American Journal of Public Health research that the administration says shows that women are much more likely to be killed in domestic-violence situations when a gun is present, McAuliffe would ban anyone subject to a protection-from-abuse order from having a gun.
The ban would also apply to anyone convicted of certain misdemeanors, such as stalking, sexual battery, assault and battery against a family member and brandishing a firearm, as well as anyone with two or more assault and battery convictions.
This measure is intended to eliminate what advocates call a loophole in state law that allows possession of guns by such offenders in Virginia, according to the governor’s office.
McAuliffe would also revoke concealed-handgun permits for parents who are delinquent on child-support payments. There are currently about 9,000 such people, and they owe more than $15 million, the governor’s office said.
Although federally licensed firearms dealers must conduct background checks before selling a firearm, private vendors face no such requirement, giving criminals what McAuliffe’s office calls “an easy avenue” to buy guns at gun shows.
In a separate provision, McAuliffe would give Virginia State Police the authority to process voluntary background check requests when submitted to them by private vendors. In his budget address Wednesday, he will set aside $100,000 to pay for state police to attend the shows.
He would also prohibit gun shows from advertising their exclusion from the background check law in hope of discouraging criminals from buying guns this way.
“These are responsible policies that will benefit Virginia’s neighborhoods and families and will create safer environments for our law enforcement officials,” Brian Moran, McAuliffe’s secretary of public safety, said in the statement. “By implementing these common-sense measures, Virginia can lead the way on curbing gun violence and can prevent dangerous individuals from illegally obtaining firearms.”