Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order last week regarding stricter prosecution of gun related crimes, increases scrutiny on gun retailers and restricts guns from entering state government buildings.
In 2014 there were 58 assaults committed in Virginia using some sort of firearm, according to the Virginia State Police. In his executive order McAuliffe specifically points to the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech in which 32 people lost their lives; and the shooting in Roanoke earlier this year that resulted in the death of two television journalists.
“The actions directed in this executive order will help our Commonwealth better enforce Virginia laws designed to keep guns away from people who would use them for harm,” McAuliffe stated in the executive order. “Like too many communities around the nation, cities and counties across the Commonwealth have experienced the devastating effects of gun violence.”
The mandates outlines six specific orders that will now be enforced by both the attorney general and the state police.
Attorney General Mark Herring will now lead a gun control task force to enforce current sales licensing laws and that people who aren’t legally allowed to own or purchase firearms can’t obtaining them.
Aside from enforcement of gun laws already in place, the task force will reassess Virginia’s regulations on the gun industry to ensure they are tight enough to prevent the illegal purchase of guns.
Much of this work will happen through the judiciary, and the governor has asked Herring to, “bring such cases as he may deem most appropriate in order to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth from illegal firearms sales.” McAuliffe also calls on judges and prosecutors to push to have guns taken away in appropriate criminal cases.
Placing a ban on firearms in state government buildings was the part of the order Republicans in Virginia’s House of Delegates focused on most in their written responses, which voiced disapproval of the governor’s actions.
“The Governor’s decision to prohibit firearms in state buildings is shortsighted,” said House Deputy Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah). 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. We will review this policy during the 2016 legislative session and take the appropriate action to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
In the 2015 legislative session there were 33 bills involving guns introduced by the the General Assembly. Two were signed by the governor. One made it a class 6 felony to have a gun on school property. The other allows people who lost their ability to own a firearm for legal reasons to petition that decision in court.
House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said in response to McAuliffe’s order that the best way to prevent gun violence is to simply enforce what the state already has on the books and focus on improved care for the mentally ill.
“For years, we have consistently said the best way to keep Virginians safe is to enforce existing law,” Howell said. “We will monitor the work of the task force. The Governor’s policy on firearms in state buildings will not apply to the State Capitol or the General Assembly Building.”
House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who, along with Gilbert and Howell, has a 100 percent rating from Virginia’s pro-gun group the Citizens Defense League, said the order gets in the way of other law enforcement agencies implementing state law.
“It is curious that the governor and attorney general are putting such special emphasis on enforcing Virginia’s gun laws when they have been so eager to ignore other laws in the past,” Cox said.
Print Managing Editor, Matt Leonard
Matt is a senior print journalism major and political science minor graduating this December. Matt began at the CT as a contributing writer before moving up to staff writer and online news editor. Matt worked at The Denver Post with the web team as a Dow Jones News Fund digital intern last summer, and previously interned with WTVR/CBS6. // Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn