- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

RICHMOND — The firearms-friendly House of Delegates passed legislation yesterday that could, if signed into law, result in more concealed handguns in restaurants, bars and vehicle glove compartments.

The House voted 62-36 to pass legislation that would allow concealed- weapons permit holders to carry hidden firearms into restaurants or clubs as long as they don’t drink alcohol while doing so. Currently, guns must be visible when carried into restaurants.

The head of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Department told a House committee earlier this week that the administration opposes the bill, which did not pass by the two-thirds margin that would be required to sustain a veto.

Gordon Hickey, spokesman for Gov. Tim Kaine, said the governor would have to review the details of the bill before deciding whether to veto it.

The same is true, Mr. Hickey said, of legislation allowing people who don’t have concealed weapons permits to transport guns in a locked glove box or other interior compartment of a vehicle rather than leaving them on the seat in plain view, as the law now requires. Mr. Kaine vetoed similar legislation two years ago.

Delegate C. Todd Gilbert, Shenandoah Republican, said restaurant patrons have nothing to fear from legally armed fellow diners.

“Concealed-carry permit holders are among the most law-abiding citizens,” Mr. Gilbert said.

Delegate Harvey B. Morgan, Gloucester Republican, called the legislation long overdue.

“I’ve always thought it was absolutely insane to require someone legally carrying a firearm to somehow dispose of it before getting a bite to eat,” he said.

But Delegate Jennifer L. McClellan, Richmond Democrat, argued that even in the Wild West, people had to check their guns at the bar.

“People learned back then that guns and alcohol don’t mix,” she said.

Proponents and opponents of the bill dealing with guns in cars said they were motivated by safety concerns. State police oppose the bill, contending that police officers are better off being able to see whether a motorist has a gun during a traffic stop.

However, Delegate Johnny S. Joannou, Portsmouth Democrat, said a gun locked in a glove compartment would be less accessible to a person who might be inclined to use it on a police officer.

Delegate Jackson H. Miller, Prince William Republican and a county police officer, said, “Nothing scares me more than to walk up to the car and see a gun on the seat.” He said officers are trained to approach vehicles as if the driver is armed anyway.

Delegates passed the bill 69-29.

•••

A Senate committee rejected legislation to postpone mandatory vaccinations of sixth-grade girls against a virus that can cause cervical cancer.

The Education and Health Committee voted 10-5 yesterday to kill a bill sponsored by Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William Republican, that would delay the mandate from this fall until the fall of 2010.

Virginia is the only state with a law requiring girls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV). Mr. Marshall said the state should wait until more is known about the vaccine’s side effects. Opponents of the mandate also have argued that the inoculation could promote promiscuity because the virus is spread through sexual contact.

But Dr. Colleen Kraft of the American Academy of Pediatrics said parents can opt out of the mandate, and girls who have been vaccinated have shown no side effects.


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