- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 15, 2015

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will ban the carrying of firearms in some state government buildings, while providing law enforcement broader authority to crack down on gun crimes.

The governor signed an executive order Thursday that sets up a joint task force to prosecute gun crimes, requires tracing of every gun used in a crime, and enables more robust prosecution of gun crimes by the attorney general.

The order enables the state to ban the open and concealed carry of firearms inside state-owned buildings unless they are held by law enforcement officials. The ban on open carry of firearms takes effect immediately, while the restrictions on concealed carry will have to be approved through a regulatory process overseen by the director of the Department of General Services.

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy could not say how long the regulatory process to approve similar new regulations will take but noted that the concealed-carry ban will be on “the fast track.”

Mr. McAuliffe was joined by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine and Attorney General Mark Herring, both Democrats, as he announced the executive order at a news conference in Richmond.

Under the executive order, Mr. Herring has the authority to prosecute firearms law offenders. Mr. Coy said the broadened authority is meant to add resources for prosecuting gun crimes cases, specifically those in which someone is suspected of knowingly supplying guns for use in crimes.

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In some instances, local law enforcers are aware of a suspect they believe may be involved in illegal sales but lack the evidence or the manpower to build a case, Mr. Coy said. With the state’s resources brought on board by the involvement of the attorney general, officials hope they will be better able to crack down.

“It adds another link in the chain to each level of information law enforcement has,” Mr. Coy said.

The executive order also will require that every gun used in a crime and recovered by law enforcement be run through the state’s eTrace system to track the seller and prior owners. Some local law enforcement agencies in the state already use the tracing system, which began in Virginia as a pilot program with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2013; others do not use it.

The new task force will focus on developing strategies to ensure that only licensed dealers are selling firearms and that people prohibited from owning firearms do not get access to them.

Mr. McAuliffe’s announcement comes two weeks after a frustrated President Obama called for tighter gun restrictions following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Nine people were killed by a gunman before he took his own life.

The Democratic governor has made reducing gun violence a focus of his administration but thus far has had trouble getting legislation approved in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

“We must continue to work to overcome political resistance to commonsense gun safety legislation, but in the mean time I am committed to using every power of my office to prevent senseless killings,” Mr. McAuliffe said.

Republican lawmakers expressed skepticism at Mr. McAuliffe’s order, and vowed to keep tabs on the actions of the new task force, as well as the effects of the new regulations.

“We are confident that our local law enforcement officers and Commonwealth’s Attorneys are enforcing all of Virginia’s laws to their full extent,” said House Majority Leader Kirk Cox, Colonial Heights Republican. “The Governor and Attorney General should take extra care before interfering with their work.”

House Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford Republican, noted that the ban on carrying firearms would not apply to the State Capitol or the General Assembly Building.

“As we have seen again and again, such policies leave law-abiding citizens vulnerable to acts of senseless violence rather than protecting people from such tragedies,” said House Deputy Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, Shenandoah Republican. “We will review this policy during the 2016 legislative session and take the appropriate action to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

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