RICHMOND, Va. (CBSDC/AP) — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed a bill Tuesday that repealed a 19-year-old law that limited individuals to one handgun purchase every 30 days. The law was enacted in 1993 when the Commonwealth was a haven for gun runners.
McDonnell had earlier expressed support for repealing the law, which limited handgun purchases but did not apply to rifles or shotguns. The General Assembly passed the legislation Feb. 15.
The governor’s office alerted reporters to the signing but said the governor would not issue a statement.
The signing came after McDonnell met Saturday with families of people killed or injured in the April 2007 shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The families had hoped to persuade him to veto the bill, although they knew it was a long shot.
Andrew Goddard, whose son Colin was wounded in the Virginia Tech shooting, was among those who met with the governor. He said the governor had previously said he would sign the bill and “it would have been very difficult for him to go back on it.”
Goddard, president of the Virginia Center for Public Safety, reserved his harshest criticism for legislators who passed the bill.
“They have not learned a damn thing,” Goddard said in a telephone interview. Alluding to Monday’s school shooting that left three students dead in Ohio, Goddard said: “Here we are watching kids dying in other states, and we’re going to be a purveyor of firearms for other states.”
Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was wounded in the shooting that left the gunman and 32 others dead at Virginia Tech, said she was disappointed by the governor’s action.
“Getting rid of the one-handgun-a-month law will make it easier for gun traffickers to purchase handguns in bulk,” she said in a written statement. “There have been too many tragedies in other states fueled by guns that come from Virginia, and this will only make the situation worse.”
Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William and sponsor of the repeal bill, said the one-handgun limit didn’t accomplish much for law enforcement.
“I think Virginians deserve effective laws, and one handgun a month has been overtaken by technology and improved background checks,” he said. “Criminals don’t go into gun stores, stand there in the bright light, hand over their driver’s license and stand there and wait for the vendor to see if they have a criminal record.”
He added: “If you really want to get after gun crime, you get after people who use guns illegally. You don’t punish law-abiding citizens.”
The 1993 law was a major legislative legacy of Democratic former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, passed when Virginia was a favorite armory for East Coast criminals.
The law was intended to stanch the flow of guns from Virginia to New York City and other metropolitan areas in the Northeast. In 1991, 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.
Goddard said the repeal legislation was one of 30 gun bills his organization opposed this year in a session that has seen an increase in conservative measures pushed by Republicans, who strengthened their House majority and gained control of the Senate in last November’s elections. Ten of those bills are still alive, he said, whereas in previous years only one or two pro-gun bills typically were passed.
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