POLLS HAVE shown repeatedly that Virginians, by overwhelming margins, favor tighter restrictions on gun purchases and ownership. Yet the legislative response to that is contempt, especially from Republican lawmakers in Richmond.
It’s a fair bet that many Virginians would be surprised to learn that at gun shows, private dealers can solicit business from felons by advertising that they need not undergo background checks to buy a firearm. Many might be surprised that there is no impediment to gun ownership for people convicted for misdemeanor counts of stalking, domestic violence and sexual battery, or for those subject to protective orders granted by a court.
And wouldn’t many Virginians simply assume that the state police can conduct a background check on firearm buyers if a private dealer requests it? In fact, they cannot.
On Monday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) proposed legislation to address those issues. The bills would keep guns out of the hands of stalkers, domestic abusers and sexual batterers, as well as anyone convicted twice or more on a charge of assault and battery.
The governor’s package would also require private dealers at gun shows to conduct background checks for buyers, just as federally licensed firearms dealers are required to do under state law. Gun shows would be staffed with state police officers who could perform background checks on the spot.
The proposals offered by Mr. McAuliffe, himself a gun owner, are modest. That they were immediately dismissed by pro-gun lawmakers as a political ploy is a measure of the lawmakers’ extremism. It also reflects the overwhelming influence of the National Rifle Association, the pro-gun lobby that has contributed more than $1.7 million to Virginia candidates running for state and federal office in the past three years.
The NRA pushed lawmakers in 2012 to scrap a state law, in place for 19 years, limiting handgun purchases by individuals to one per month. Mr. McAuliffe proposed reinstating that limit, which Republicans also declared a non-starter.
In a state that is closely divided along party lines, 71 percent of voters polled by The Post in 2012 said they favored the one-gun-a-month limit. In 2013, nine out of every 10 people polled by the (Norfolk) Virginian Pilot said they favored background checks for people who buy firearms at gun shows.
In proposing his legislation, Mr. McAuliffe presented evidence correlating gun possession with murders committed in settings where domestic violence has occurred and showing that handgun buyers convicted of violent misdemeanors are much more likely to be reconvicted on similar charges than those who don’t buy handguns.
That’s not likely to make a dent in the GOP- controlled legislature, which, cosseted by NRA dollars, is immune to evidence.