RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday signed a measure to repeal the state’s nearly 20-year-old ban on purchasing more than one handgun per month, delivering a major victory to gun rights advocates in the state.
Mr. McDonnell, a Republican who as a Virginia Beach delegate supported the law, has said the requirement it is no longer necessary, given the changes in technology and new requirements for background checks. Proponents of the measure also argue that the numerous exemptions in the law make it unnecessary.
Opponents say that the repeal will again make Virginia the “gun-running capital of the East Coast,” which is why it was originally enacted.
Mr. McDonnell, who was in the District for the National Governors Association winter meeting over the weekend, said Tuesday that he changed his Saturday schedule so he could speak by phone with family members of victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings before signing the bill.
“I had a very emotional, a very informative discussion with the families who told me why they thought I should veto the bill, and I’ve listened them,” he said. “When people that have been directly affected ask to speak to me, I will pause and listen.”
Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who signed the original measure into law in 1993, said the majority of Virginians still support it.
“It was a major victory for the people of Virginia,” Mr. Wilder said Tuesday. “They spoke then. They’ve spoken recently in polls that have been taken.”
A recent Christopher Newport University/Richmond Times-Dispatch survey that found 66 percent of voters opposed the law’s repeal.
Though the law is regarded as one of Mr. Wilder’s signature accomplishments, it shouldn’t be made personal, he said.
“I benefit nothing,” he said. “And I lose nothing. I think to the extent that the people of Virginia will lose, that’s something that the administration will have to deal with.”
But did he have any comment on the arguments for the repeal, such as the addition of background checks and numerous exemptions?
“It is so ridiculous that I don’t comment,” he said with a chuckle.