GUN-LIMIT-LAW REPEAL NEAR
By Chelyen Davis
RICHMOND— Repeal of Virginia’s one-gun-a-month limit advanced Wednesday, approved by a Senate committee.
The vote reflects the changes in the Senate since Republicans took control after last November’s elections.
On an 8–6 vote, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted to send the bill to the full Senate.
Virginia has limited handgun purchases to one a month since 1994. But, argued Sen. Bill Carrico, R–Grayson, the state has since added numerous exceptions; for instance, the limit doesn’t apply to people with concealed-weapons permits.
Carrico—who sponsored the bill—said he also opposes the idea that government can limit a citizen’s purchases at all. The one-gun-a-month law, he said, “penalizes law-abiding individuals for the actions of criminals who will never be constrained by laws.”
The bill was supported by the Virginia Citizens Defense League and other gun-rights advocates.
Andy Goddard, whose son Colin was injured in the Virginia Tech shooting, said the one-gun-a-month law was originally intended to reduce gun trafficking, and that it’s still needed.
“We have a terrible trafficking problem in Virginia again,” Goddard said.
Josh Horowitz, director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said the bill is needed not to stop Virginians from buying two or three guns, but to stop traffickers from buying 20 or 30.
“We have the tools to stop that now; if we get rid of this bill, we won’t,” Horowitz said.
Sen. Toddy Puller, D–Fairfax, proposed carrying the bill over until next year and having the state Crime Commission study the issue and the impact that repealing the limit might have.
The committee rejected that, and passed the bill.
Fredericksburg-area Sens. Richard Stuart, Bryce Reeves, Jill Vogel, Ryan McDougle and Tom Garrett all voted in favor of the bill to repeal the limit.
The committee also approved a bill from Stuart making clear that it’s legal to shoot an intruder in your own home if you are threatened or in danger of bodily harm.
Stuart said his “castle doctrine” bill essentially codifies what is already common law in Virginia. But, he said, it also would provide stronger protections to the homeowner against civil liability.
“This is a basic fundamental right to be able to defend yourself and your family in your own home,” Stuart said.
The committee members, most of whom are lawyers, debated extensively what it would mean to codify castle doctrine, and whether it would or should provide any sort of immunity to civil lawsuits.
Goddard said current law is “already clear and sufficient” and there’s no evidence Stuart’s bill is needed.
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” he said.
Virginia Gun Owners Coalition president Mike McHugh supported the bill, saying it would clarify the law.
“It sends the message that you do have the right, the average citizen doesn’t understand the common law,” McHugh said.
The committee passed the bill on an 8–7 vote.
Chelyen Davis: 804/343-2245