- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2012

RICHMOND — The Virginia Senate on Monday voted to repeal the state’s nearly 20-year-old law limiting handgun purchases to one per month, delivering a long-sought victory to advocates of gun rights and the Second Amendment.

The legislation, signed by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder in 1993, was intended to curb illegal gun trafficking from Virginia to other states on the East Coast, notably New York. That point was reiterated Monday by those looking to keep the ban in place.

“Virginians must look out for our neighbors,” said Sen. David W. Marsden, Fairfax Democrat. “Twenty years ago, the majority of homicides in New York were committed with guns bought in Virginia. People would buy a bunch of guns in Virginia and take them to New York to sell.”

Proponents say there are many exemptions in the law — for law-enforcement officials and holders of concealed-weapon permits, for example — and that gun-tracking technology has come so far that the law is no longer necessary.

“This law may have had a purpose when it was passed originally, but the rationale has been neutered by the exceptions that now exist,” said Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, Prince William Republican, who sponsored the bill in the House of Delegates.

Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, sent an email to supporters shortly after the vote declaring that “the albatross is almost dead.”

The House signed off on its version of the bill last week, and Gov. Bob McDonnell has indicated that he will sign the measure.

Mr. McDonnell supported the law when he was a Republican delegate representing Virginia Beach, but, citing technological progress since then, now backs its repeal.

The measure passed by a vote of 21-19, sparing Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling from having to cast a tie-breaking vote on the contentious issue. Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., James City Republican, joined 18 Democrats in voting against the bill. Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath and Sen. John S. Edwards of Roanoke, pro-gun Democrats who represent rural areas of the state, were the two crossovers who voted for the repeal.

Gun control advocates quickly expressed their disappointment.

“Virginia has had more than its share of horrific tragedies perpetrated by criminals with easy access to firearms,” said Lori Haas, whose daughter, Emily, survived the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech in which Seung-hui Cho killed 32 people before taking his own life. “It is a sad day when our legislators purposely make it easier for gun traffickers to do their dirty business.”

Senate Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw of Fairfax noted that if a person bought one gun a month, every month, for the past 20 years, they would have amassed a cache of 240 handguns.

“If you need more than 240 handguns, I submit something’s wrong with you,” he said. “Something has gone terribly wrong in your life.”

The Senate has also signed off on a bill that would remove the option for a locality to require that an applicant for a concealed handgun permit submit fingerprints as part of their application.

While Monday’s vote marked a gigantic victory for groups such as the Virginia Citizens Defense League and the National Rifle Association, the pro-gun lobby has not been entirely successful thus far in the 2012 session.

Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr., Grayson Republican and patron of the one-gun-a-month measure, requested that another bill to pre-empt any administrative body from enacting gun-control regulations be carried over to next year.

The Courts of Justice Committee also continued to next year a bill introduced by Sen. Richard H. Black, Loudoun Republican, that would eliminate a state background check for purchasers of rifles and shotguns in favor of a federal one. Currently, both are used.