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State Democratic lawmakers to file gun bills

In the wake of last week’s school shooting in Connecticut, at least two Democratic state lawmakers have said they’ll file bills in the upcoming 2013 General Assembly session to restrict access to certain firearms or add penalties for gun owners who don’t try to protect their guns from theft.

Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, said in a press release today that he’ll file two related bills that “will make it substantially harder for criminals or the mentally ill to obtain the type of dangerous weapons used to commit mass killings in Aurora, Colorado, Newtown, Connecticut, and countless other American cities.”

One of Marsden’s bills would create a civil liability for gun owners if their gun is stolen, used in a crime and they “they failed to take adequate care and control to prevent the theft.” The other would set a $250 penalty for failing to report the theft of one’s gun.

“Every single gun owner needs to take personal responsibility and follow basic safety measures to protect their property from misuse by criminals or the mentally ill,” Marsden said in his release. “Responsible gun owners, who use basic precautions like trigger locks or gun safes to safely secure their firearms, will not be affected by these proposals.”

Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, would go further — he announced today plans to file a bill to ban the sale of “assault-style weapons” and high-capacity magazines.

In a release, Morrissey said several other states — New York, Massachusetts, California and New Jersey — currently have such weapons bans.

“I’m tired of hearing some folk claim that law abiding sportsman need these weapons,” Morrissey said. “How is it ‘sport’ to go out and shoot Bambi using an assault rifle and accompanying 50 cartridge magazine?”

Sen. Don McEachin, D-Richmond, also said this week that he plans to introduce some form of gun-limitation legislation.

Also today, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe said he believes localities should make school resource officers available to elementary schools that request them.

“We already have these trained officers at the majority of high schools and middle schools in Virginia and should simply extend this common sense option to as many elementary schools as possible,” McAuliffe said in a release. “These officers are professionals who are specifically trained to respond to dangerous situations and would be available to deal with any threat our children might face.  The cost for the commonwealth to fund such a program would be manageable considering that many schools sharing facilities may already be covered, federal funds are available, and it is of course the decision of each school whether to pursue this option.”

McAuliffe cited 2007 statistics — the most recent available, he said –from the Virginia School Resource Officer Program that 95 percent of state high schools and 74 percent of middle schools had a school resource officer, but only one percent of elementary schools did.