RICHMOND (WRIC)—On Wednesday morning
at the General Assembly, gun control advocates and Democratic lawmakers
unveiled their agenda for this year's legislative session: keeping guns away
from violent criminals and the mentally ill.
This is an issue that seems to come
up in the General Assembly each year, but the results from last November's
election have Democratic lawmakers hopeful they can enact new measures.
State Senator Donald McEachin, State
Senator Barbara Favola and Delegate Marcus Simon introduced four bills aimed at
limiting access to guns by those who are involuntarily committed for mental
health treatment, and those who are convicted of stalking or violent sex
ABC 8 News spoke with Sen. McEachin,
who says the discussion of gun safety at the General Assembly is long overdue.
“It's all about safety,” McEachin
said. “No one contests that Virginians have the right to bear arms, but there
are certain people who have legal impediments from owning those arms, or being
allowed to have those arms. We just want to make sure that they don't get their
hands on guns, which are dangerous.”
Andrew Goddard, whose son was shot
during the Virginia Tech massacre, was the first to speak out at Wednesday's
“We need to make sure that we're weeding
out the few people who do not intend to use those guns for sporting or other
legit purposes,” he said.
Goddard has worked with lawmakers
for years to cut down on gun violence. The proposals outline requirements for
background checks on all commercial sales, and limits gun access for those
involuntarily treated for mental illness.
“It is not to stigmatize anyone or beat
up on any segment of the population,” McEachin said. “It's all about safety.”
But David Hancock, a local gun store
manager, says not all mental treatment is documented.
“Most of ‘em weren't even under
treatment that I can find,” Hancock said. “So I don't really see where this is
going to help.”
Sen. Favola wants to take gun
regulation a step further, with a proposal to ban gun ownership five years for
those convicted of stalking or sexual battery.
“This is a bill that each and every
one of us would want to see passed, because we know how important it is to keep
our families safe,” she said.
Hancock said, “We've got enough laws
on the books. We've got state background checks, federal forms, and when a
person buys a gun, we enter the information into the state police computer
McEachin added that public support
is starting to shift toward more gun regulation.
Gov. McAuliffe has not yet commented on these specific bills, he has said he
supports some increased gun restrictions.
Copyright 2014 by Young
Broadcasting of Richmond