Vice President Joe Biden is hard at work, rallying the American people around the administration’s gun safety proposals. Earlier this week he participated in a Google+ “Fireside Hangout” and Friday he will be joined by Virginia’s Democratic senator Tim Kaine in the state capital of Richmond to participate in a roundtable discussion “with experts who worked on gun safety following the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech,” according to the Associated Press.
In an email to supporters Friday, Biden called for grassroots action to get Congress to act on President Obama’s gun safety proposals:
The president has called on Congress to act on four specific legislative measures: closing background-check loopholes, banning military-style assault weapons and limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines, making our schools safer, and increasing access to mental health services.
Friday’s visit to Virginia sends a powerful message to the gun lobby and politicians prepared to fight against stronger gun laws. The Old Dominion is home to the National Rifle Association and has recently passed some of the loosest gun laws in the country.
Virginia earned only 12 points out of 100 in the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s state scorecard. The Brady Campaign said, “Virginia has weak gun laws that help feed the illegal gun market, allow the sale of guns without background checks and put children at risk.”
From repealing the one-handgun-a-month law to allowing loaded guns in bars, here are five of the craziest gun laws in Virginia.
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Ending One-Handgun-Per-Month Law
Before former Democratic governor Douglas L. Wilder signed the one-gun-a-month law in 1993, Virginia was known as the “gun-running capital of the East Coast.” Two years before the law was passed, the “Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found that 40 percent of the 1,236 guns found at crime scenes in New York had been purchased in Virginia,” according to The Huffington Post.
Nearly 20 years later, Republicans repealed the one-handgun-per-month law. In February, 2012, Virginia’s Republican governor Bob McDonnell signed the bill into law after it was passed by the GOP-controlled legislature. The repeal was opposed by survivors of the Virginia Tech mass shooting. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg blasted the repeal of the long-standing law, saying “Virginia is the No. 1 out-of-state source of crime guns in New York, and one of the top suppliers of crime guns nationally.”
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Allowing Loaded Guns In Bars
Amazingly, Virginia passed a law in 2012 allowing people to carry loaded concealed handguns into bars. Armed individuals aren’t allowed to drink alcohol in the establishments. But when the weapon is hidden, how is a bartender supposed to know not to serve alcoholic beverages to that individual? Or what about showing up to the bar already drunk and with a loaded concealed gun?
“That definitely makes me feel much more nervous knowing that people could have a few drinks before the bar and then come here and have a gun,” Virginia resident Emily Ward told NBC’s Richmond affiliate.
Even the “Wild West” had strict rules regarding guns in bars.
“You could wear your gun into town, but you had to check it at the sheriff’s office or the Grand Hotel, and you couldn’t pick it up again until you were leaving town,” Bob Boze Bell, executive editor of True West magazine, which celebrates the Old West, told the Los Angeles Times. “It was an effort to control the violence.”
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Granting Out-of-State Online Gun Permits
Virginia is undercutting other states’ laws regarding permits by offering online courses to residents of other states. The state is issuing an increasing number of concealed-carry gun permits to residents of other states who take an online course. But this permit process bypasses tougher training requirements in the state of residence, such as firing a gun with an instructor.
An editorial in The Dallas Morning News denounced Virginia’s online gun permits, saying Texas should not honor them.
“What no Texan should want is to have someone around who is armed but has no clear concept of Texas law or how to handle a gun. And that’s what could happen more often if Texans sign up for nonresident permits from Virginia, which allows permitting entirely online.”
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Restoring Gun Rights To The Mentally Ill
A New York Times investigation into state restoration laws, which allows people with histories of mental illness to get their gun rights back with a simple petition, found that there are many loopholes that allow potentially dangerous individuals to get their guns back after being taken away.
The investigation researched individuals who had a history of mental illness but were legally allowed access to guns again. One person’s gun rights were restored by a judge after about a five-minute hearing. Another person got his gun rights reinstated only two months after being involuntarily committed. Another person had a “violent episode” that led to felony convictions after his gun rights were restored.
The article found that “states have mostly entrusted these decisions to judges, who are often ill-equipped to conduct investigations from the bench. Many seemed willing to simply give petitioners the benefit of the doubt. The results often seem haphazard.”
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Preventing Localities From Fingerprinting
Last year the Republican-controlled legislature passed a law prohibiting localities from fingerprinting concealed handgun permit applicants.
The summary of House Bill 754 says the bill “removes the option for a locality to require that an applicant for a concealed handgun permit submit fingerprints as part of the application.”
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