- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A year after a rare compromise on gun legislation that saw GOP lawmakers and Gov. Terry McAuliffe praising each other for reaching across the aisle, a more familiar standoff seems likely at the Virginia General Assembly.

Republicans have introduced several pro-gun bills this year that Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a proponent of gun control, is almost certain to veto if they pass the GOP-controlled General Assembly. Likewise, McAuliffe and Democratic lawmakers are pushing gun control legislation that has virtually no chance of success.

Last year, McAuliffe and Republicans surprised many by agreeing to gun measures that allowed more out-of-state concealed-handgun permit holders to legally carry guns in Virginia while prohibiting people subject to permanent protective orders from carrying firearms.

But this year, an election year when all three statewide offices are up for grabs, the long-running gun debate at the Capitol appears to be reverting to form.

An example: GOP candidate for governor Corey Stewart attacked both McAuliffe and fellow GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie at a Capitol gun-rights rally.

Corey called McAuliffe a “gun grabber” and blasted Gillespie for not attending the rally, which was organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League and attended by most Republican statewide candidates.

“He doesn’t do anything unless his consultants approve of it,” said Stewart, a onetime chairman of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign in Virginia. “That is cowardice.”

Gillespie had already agreed to attend a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at a church before being invited to the rally, spokesman Matthew Moran said. Gillespie had Del. Scott Lingamfelter speak as a surrogate and he assured the crowd that Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, ardently supported gun rights and if elected would repeal McAuliffe’s executive orders limiting guns in state-owned offices.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Favola said the election-year backdrop is likely to make any compromise on gun issues difficult. She also noted that Democrats had more power last year when negotiating because Attorney General Mark Herring had moved to revoke Virginia’s concealed-handgun-permit agreements with 25 other states.

“We don’t have any leverage this year, and it’s a gubernatorial year,” she said. “Those two things … they set a very different backdrop.”

Monday was the annual “lobby day,” where advocates both for gun control and gun rights swarmed the Capitol to advocate for and against gun-related legislation.

Gun rights advocates are pushing for fewer restrictions on where guns can be carried, including in churches and schools. McAuliffe and Democrats want universal background checks on gun purchases, among other gun restrictions.

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