- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2008

RICHMOND (AP) — Bills championed by gun rights advocates that would result in more concealed firearms in restaurants, bars and vehicle glove boxes were endorsed yesterday by a House of Delegates committee.

One bill would allow concealed-weapons permit holders to carry hidden guns into restaurants or clubs but would prohibit them from drinking alcohol while doing so. Current law allows guns in such establishments only if they are visible.

The other measure would allow people who don’t have a concealed-weapons permit to transport handguns in a locked glove box or other interior compartment of a vehicle rather than carry it in plain view, as the law now requires.

Both bills cleared the Senate and will be up for a vote on the House floor later this week. Even if they pass, gubernatorial vetoes seem likely.

W. Curtis Coleburn III, chief operating officer of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Department, told the Militia and Police Committee the administration opposes the legislation allowing concealed handguns in establishments that serve alcohol.

“This is bad public-safety policy,” Mr. Coleburn said.

Mr. Coleburn said law-enforcement officials, including ABC agents, are better off being able to see who is armed in a restaurant or club.

Tom Lisk, president of the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, also spoke against the bill. He said anyone who wants to carry a concealed weapon into a restaurant can choose from about 11,000 establishments that don’t serve alcohol.

“You can carry openly in ABC-licensed restaurants,” Mr. Lisk added. “But when you talk about concealed, it doesn’t belong in an environment where alcohol is served.”

Proponents of the legislation argued that concealed-weapons permit holders have passed background checks and generally are among the most law-abiding citizens.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican, said a person who gets a concealed-weapons permit because he or she is being stalked or threatened shouldn’t have to leave the gun in a parked car and go into a restaurant unprotected.

Roy Scherer, a community activist who is a fixture around the legislature’s meeting rooms, said he often walks home at night and enjoys stopping about halfway at a tavern. Mr. Scherer said he has to make sure his handgun is visible, and some tipplers “take that as a challenge.”

“I’d rather be able to keep the gun tucked away out of sight,” Mr. Scherer said.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., Augusta Republican, would require anyone carrying a concealed weapon to tell a restaurant employee he or she is armed.

The committee voted 15-5 to advance the proposal.

The Virginia State Police oppose Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel’s bill allowing those without a permit to conceal a handgun inside a vehicle. They say law-enforcement officers are better off being able to see any weapon stowed in a vehicle during a traffic stop.

Gov. Tim Kaine cited that as his reason for vetoing similar legislation in 2006. Delegate Clifford L. Athey Jr., Warren Republican and sponsor of that bill, said he still thinks it is a good idea. He said his wife doesn’t have a concealed-carry permit but travels to and from Richmond with a gun, which Mr. Athey would prefer to be locked away out of reach of their young twins.

“It seems to me a gun secured in a locked glove box is safer for children,” he said.

Mrs. Vogel, Winchester Republican, also promoted the bill as a child-safety measure.

Alice Mountjoy of the Virginia Center for Public Safety said anyone who is concerned about protecting children can simply get a concealed-weapons permit.

The committee endorsed the bill on an overwhelming voice vote.

•••

A Senate committee once again killed legislation authorizing the use of deadly force against anyone who breaks into a home and physically threatens the occupant.

The House has passed similar bills the past two years, but the Senate Courts of Justice Committee has dismissed them. The committee made it three in a row yesterday with a vote to pass the bill by indefinitely, effectively killing it for the year.

The bill by Delegate William R. Janis, Henrico Republican, would have provided civil immunity to residents who kill intruders. The House passed it 80-19.

Senators said they knew of no civil lawsuits or criminal prosecutions dealing with the use of deadly force against intruders, so they felt there was no need for the legislation.


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