- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2004

A Virginia lawmaker is drafting a bill that would prohibit illegal immigrants from carrying a gun, a move that toughens a law that he says allows potential terrorists and drug dealers to roam free.

Delegate Thomas C. Wright Jr., Victoria Republican, said current law allows illegal aliens to carry any guns except assault weapons. He said his bill will give police new authority when trying to crack down on terrorism and drug trafficking.

“If it’s only used one time, it’s worthwhile,” Mr. Wright said.

“I’m not approaching this from a gun-control standpoint. If someone is in this country illegally, there is no basis for granting them rights to a firearm,” said Mr. Wright, who describes himself as a “strong Second Amendment supporter.”

The number of illegal immigrants trying to buy guns has steadily increased over the past 14 years, according to Virginia State Police Lt. Pete Fagan.

Between 1989 and 1999, there were 54 attempts by illegal immigrants to buy guns, Lt. Fagan said. Between 1999 and last year, there were 157 attempts, he said.

State police do not track how many guns are discovered during traffic stops, said Lt. Gary Payne, a state police spokesman.

Federal law already makes it illegal for an illegal alien to carry a gun, but it’s difficult to convict anyone of the offense in a timely manner. A state law like the one Mr. Wright is proposing would help police act quickly against offenders, Lt. Fagan said.

Mr. Wright will present his bill in the upcoming session, which starts Jan. 14. He said he doesn’t see how any of his fellow lawmakers could “logically” disagree with the proposal.

Lt. Payne said his department would likely take a stance on Mr. Wright’s bill before lawmakers vote on it.

Gun control has long been a hot topic in Virginia.

Last year, a Senate panel rejected a bill that would have imposed tighter controls over gun-show sales by subjecting more buyers to criminal-background checks.

A bill to ban all non-police weapons in the state Capitol and General Assembly office building in Richmond also was rejected.

In 2002, the General Assembly voted to bar localities from banning guns in public facilities. The law was drafted to give the state uniform gun laws, and forbids city managers and local elected bodies from imposing a ban through written regulations or ordinances.

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