McAuliffe vetoes bills loosening gun restrictions

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/CNS) – Two bills that would have expanded gun rights in Virginia were vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe this week.

The measures were attempts to give Virginians more freedom to possess firearms in or around state office buildings. Though the bills made it all the way to the governor’s desk, McAuliffe decided to shoot them down on Thursday.

McAuliffe vetoed:

  • House Bill 382, sponsored by Del. Buddy Fowler, R-Hanover. It sought to prohibit most state agencies from preventing their employees from storing guns or ammunition in a locked motor vehicle at their workplace. The bill had passed the House on a 65-34 vote and the Senate by 24-14.
  • HB 1096, introduced by Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall. It aimed to reverse the governor’s Executive Order 50, which disallowed the possession of firearms in Virginia state office buildings. The legislation had passed the House by a vote of 65-33 and the Senate by 21-17.

Webert expressed disappointment in McAuliffe’s decision, chalking it up to the tension that comes from checks and balances.

“As is the course of government, there is always friction between the executive and legislative branches,” Webert said. “I am disappointed in the governor’s veto of HB 1096.”

Webert said McAuliffe’s executive order infringed on the rights of law-abiding citizens and their options to defend themselves.

“Many law-abiding concealed carry permit holders, I am confident, will also share in my disappointment as they cannot defend themselves as they see fit,” Webert said. “As law-abiding citizens, CCP holders are a very law-abiding group, and thus it would only be prudent to work to provide them with the same level of freedom they once enjoyed.”

Photo credit: VCU CNS
Photo credit: VCU CNS

In his veto message, McAuliffe called the bills “an unnecessary reversal of common-sense efforts to limit workplace violence or accidental injury due to the presence of firearms in state facilities.”

“All Virginians, including state employees, have the right to feel safe and secure going about their daily lives,” McAuliffe said regarding HB 1096. “Regulations have been authorized to promote safety in public buildings, and prevention requires us to address areas of concern before they are realized.”

As for HB 382, the governor said, “I believe there is a need to establish and enforce workplace violence prevention policies that focus on employee safety and an atmosphere of workplace safety. An essential component of workplace violence prevention is the regulation of the possession, brandishing, or use of weapons on-site and during work-related activities.”

Although McAuliffe vetoed the two gun rights measures, the Democratic governor and Republican lawmakers forged a compromise on the issue during this year’s legislative session. Under the agreement, people who are under a permanent protective order because of domestic abuse must relinquish their firearms, and the State Police will provide background checks for private gun sellers at gun shows. In addition, Virginia agreed to continue recognizing concealed weapon permits granted by other states.

So far, McAuliffe has vetoed a total of 14 bills from the legislative session that ended March 11. Among other things, the vetoed bills would have allowed stronger grain alcohol to be sold in Virginia liquor stores; given the General Assembly more control over how the state responds to a federal plan to reduce emissions at coal-fueled power plants; and allowed home-schooled students to participate in sports and other interscholastic activities at their local schools.

The General Assembly will reconvene on April 20 to consider the governor’s amendments and vetoes of legislation. Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate.

Though it usually lasts a single day, the reconvened session can last up to three days and can be extended by up to an additional week.

Capital News Service is a student-operated news reporting program sponsored by the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University.

For more Virginia General Assembly coverage, visit the In the Rotunda section.

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