- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2016

Virginia Democrats will try to break a state-level stalemate on guns when the General Assembly convenes next week, hoping to force bans on high-capacity ammunition magazines and to make gun owners liable if their firearms are connected to crimes.

But Republicans are vowing to stymy Democrats and hope to push the needle the other direction on guns, saying they want to pass bills to allow public university employees to carry firearms on campus and to prohibit state authorities from enforcing federal gun laws.

State Sen. David Marsden, a Fairfax County Democrat who has introduced some of the bills, said he expects both sides will fail given the gridlock over guns, but said he had to try.

His legislation includes limiting magazines used in military-style rifles to 10 rounds of ammunition, preventing people with restraining orders from possessing guns and requiring proof of firearm competency to receive a concealed carry permit.

“My job is to protect people even from themselves, and as long as I can do that consistent with the Second Amendment, I will,” he said.

For Andrew Goddard, whose son Colin survived being shot four times in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, such measures are simply “common sense.” He started the Virginia Center for Public Safety to call on the Virginia legislature to enact more of them.

Gun rights advocates, however, say not only do restrictions on gun ownership infringe on the Second Amendment, but they won’t stop crimes.

“People need to be able to protect themselves, and that’s why gun laws need to be loosened up,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. “That way, if one of these vicious criminals not behind bars decides to attack, the person can protect themselves.”

State Sen. Robert Marshall, Prince William and Loudoun County Republican, proposed bills that cut down restrictions on gun purchases and concealed carry permitting to cut crime. He also proposed a bill to hold the state liable if a person authorized for concealed carry is shot in a gun-free zone — a shot at Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s “anti-gun” agenda.

“They’re right now disbarring people from defending themselves and absolving themselves of any liability from actions they commanded by telling people not to carry,” Mr. Marshall said. “If you’d been allowed to defend yourself, you could have avoided injury. If the governor says no to me, that is unconscionable.”

His bills have been met with acclaim from gun rights groups.

“When you look at the public shooting massacres dating back to the 1950s, over 90 percent have occurred in gun-free zones, and obviously it’s not stopping bad guys and terrorists from taking guns into those zones,” said Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America.

The biggest gunfight this year could be over reciprocity for other states’ concealed carry permits, meaning a holder of a permit in another state can legally carry a concealed weapon in Virginia too.

In December, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, revoked reciprocity with 25 other states, ruling their permitting doesn’t meet Virginia’s standards. That leaves just four states with which Virginia does have reciprocity.

Mr. Marshall said he intended to add an amendment to the budget — something the governor could not easily veto — to ensure that out-of-state permits would be accepted in Virginia against Mr. Herring’s recommendation.

But the reciprocity law has been on the books, and outrage over the government enforcing gun laws already on the books makes no sense, Mr. Marsden said.

“As the current [concealed weapons permit] standards and the requirement that other states must have equivalent standards is already law, this is not overreach but might reflect some concern that the legislature has done an inadequate job in requiring background checks for gun purchase,” Mr. Marsden said.

Mr. Goddard said the moves are not the sort of gun grab Second Amendment supporters fear.

“We’re not trying to control the guns, we’re trying to control the violence that comes from guns,” he said. “That’s a different thing, it really is. I’m not anti-guns. A lot of people in our movement own guns. But when guns end up in the hands of the wrong type of people, we let that happen too often.”

Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was shot twice and survived the Virginia Tech shootings, said that just like there are limitations to the First Amendment, there are limitations to the Second Amendment.

“The Supreme Court has said several times that laws that regulate who can buy and where you can carry guns are not at odds with the Second Amendment,” Ms. Haas, Virginia state director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said. “I can’t yell fire in a crowded theater. The Second Amendment is not exempt from those [regulations], and those rights only apply to law-abiding citizens, and we make sure if you’re not, you don’t get a deadly weapon.”

Mr. Marsden is hoping that Democrats and Republicans can at least find common ground on “universal” background checks.

He proposed a background check to get a license good for five years, and with that permit, they could go buy guns without running another background check — a time- and cost-saving effort.

“Even Bill O’Reilly of Fox News has called for universal background checks,” Mr. Marsden said. “But the whole thing with the gun lobby is that if they do anything, if they give an inch, it’ll be the camel’s nose in the tent, and then Barack Obama will come down their chimney Christmas Eve and take all their guns. And it’s ridiculous.”

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