Senate votes to repeal gun purchase limit

In 1993, Virginia prohibited the purchase of more than one handgun every 30 days. In the year after the limit, gun sales spiked at 228,745.

Alex Wiggins
Capital News Service

In 1993, Virginia prohibited the purchase of more than one handgun every 30 days. In the year after the limit, gun sales spiked at 228,745.

Virginians soon may be able to purchase more guns than they can carry, all in one buy – for the first time in almost two decades.

With the exception of law enforcement officials and some concealed-weapon permit holders, a state law passed in 1993 has prohibited the purchase of more than one handgun every 30 days. On Monday, the Senate passed a bill to revoke this law; the House approved a similar measure last week.

Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the namesake of VCU’s School of Government and Public Affairs, signed the one-gun-a-month limit into law nearly two decades ago.

Sen. Bill Carrico, the chief patron of Senate Bill 323 and a long-time advocate for the right to bear arms, called the existing law “unnecessary and outdated.” He said Monday’s 21-19 vote was a victory for the Second Amendment.

Carrico, a Republican from Galax in the southwestern tip of Virginia, said that technology negates the need for the state’s limit on gun purchases and that law-abiding citizens will benefit from such a change.

“Advanced technologies like instant background checks have made gun restrictions like this counter-productive,” said Carrico, a retired state trooper. “Over the years, it has become obvious that ‘one gun a month’ only affected responsible gun owners and didn’t deter criminals from obtaining handguns.”

Critics of lifting the limit on buying guns in Virginia said the change would create problems not only in the commonwealth but in other states as well.

A 2010 report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ranked Virginia among the top suppliers of guns linked to crimes in New York.

“We’ve learned in the past that making it real easy to purchase guns has led Virginia guns to be used inordinately in crimes in New York City,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria. He added that he hopes “the ability to purchase more than 12 guns per year,” if passed, does not affect crime rates in or out of state.

“I am very disappointed in the General Assembly’s actions toward repeal of one of Gov. Doug Wilder’s signature achievements,” said Tim Kaine, another previous governor. Kaine is now the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.

He called on the current governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, to reject bills to repeal the one-gun-a-month rule.

“I strongly urge Gov. McDonnell to veto this legislation and urge all of Virginia’s leaders in Richmond to renew their commitment to a focus on jobs and the economy,” Kaine said.

McDonnell has indicated that he would sign the repeal measure.

The 40 senators are evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Nineteen Republicans and two Democrats – Sens. Creigh Deeds of Bath County and John Edwards of Roanoke – voted in favor of SB 323.

The remaining 18 Democrats were joined by one Republican, Sen. Thomas Norment of Williamsburg, in voting against the bill.

Carrico’s bill was co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Richard Black of Sterling, Thomas Garrett of Bumpass and Bryce Reeves of Fredericksburg.

Deeds said he voted for the bill on constitutional grounds.

“I don’t see the reason why someone would need to own a gun a month,” Deeds said. “I don’t think there’s any reason for a person to have to buy a gun a year, but the fact is the Second Amendment guarantees people have a right to own and possess firearms unless they’re disqualified somehow.

“I think the limit by the government is arbitrary. I voted against it in ’93. … Anybody that has studied my voting record or studied what I’ve said about the issue knew exactly how I was going to vote.”

SB 323 now goes to the House for consideration.

Second Amendment issues are just a few of the issues coming to a head in the largely Republican legislature this year, and it’s not just for statewide policies.

House Bill 91, for example, would ban policies by public institutions of higher education that prohibit full-time faculty members with Virginia concealed handgun permits from carrying weapons on campus.



photo courtesy mglasgow’s Flickr; infographic by Ying Jun Cheng

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