- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine on Friday vetoed bills that would have lifted restrictions on gun possession and increased the number of offenders eligible for the death penalty.

Virginia is second in the nation in the number of executions it carries out, said Mr. Kaine as he rejected bills that would have expanded those eligible for the death penalty to include accomplices in murders and those who kill on-duty fire marshals or auxiliary police officers.

“While the nature of the offenses targeted by this legislation is very serious, I do not believe that further expansion of the death penalty is necessary to protect human life,” said Mr. Kaine, a Democrat.

The veto of the bill to expand the use of the death penalty to accomplices in killings was widely expected. Mr. Kaine has vetoed similar legislation twice before.

But the bill expanding capital punishment to those who kill on-duty fire marshals or auxiliary police officers was approved overwhelmingly in the legislature, setting up the possibility that the vetoes could be overridden when the General Assembly reconvenes April 8.

The governor also rejected bills that would have loosened the state’s gun regulations. Among them:

Senate Bill 1035 would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons into restaurants or clubs that serve alcoholic beverages. Guns are allowed into restaurants as long as they are displayed openly, under current state law.

“Allowing concealed weapons into restaurants and bars that serve alcohol puts the public, the employees and our public safety officers at risk,” Mr. Kaine said. “I take seriously the objections of law enforcement to this measure.”

House Bill 2528 would have prohibited local law enforcement agencies from choosing to conduct voluntary gun buyback programs and then destroying the weapons.

Senate Bill 1528 would have allowed the firearms training required to receive a concealed weapons permit to be completed online.

“Allowing the testing to be done online would weaken the ability of the commonwealth to determine who is actually taking the test and open up opportunities for individuals to receive a permit under fraudulent circumstances with no guarantee that they can use a weapon safely,” Mr. Kaine said.

House Bill 1851 would have created a new exemption to Virginias one-handgun-a-month law that would include active-duty service members whether Virginia residents or not.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican, said Mr. Kaine’s decision not to extend the exemption was a surprise. Servicemen, he said, receive orders to deploy with less than 30 days’ notice but still must provide for their family’s security.

“Here we have people who are going overseas to serve their country,” he said.

Mr. Griffith said the vetoes on the gun issues were not what Mr. Kaine promised during his campaign but are consistent with his actions as governor.

“He’s vetoed everything we’ve sent to him,” he said.

Mr. Kaine on Friday also vetoed a bill that would have allowed retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons into restaurants or clubs and a bill that would have permitted unlicensed law enforcement officers to operate new, unregulated lie-detection devices.

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