This is the second in a series of posts that I’ve decided to do as a post-session look at the bills considered by Virginia’s General Assembly. For now I’m focusing on bills that passed both the House of Delegates and the Senate. At some later point I might also write about bills that were considered, but did not pass. In my last post (found here) I wrote about HB 5 which was a proposed amendment to the Constitution of Virginia regarding property rights. In this post, I want to take a look at several bills dealing with gun rights.
HB 375 Firearms; workplace rule by locality that prevents storing in locked motor vehicle, exceptions.
SUMMARY AS PASSED:
Control of firearms by localities; workplace rules. Provides that no locality shall adopt any workplace rule, other than for the purposes of a community services board or behavioral health authority, that prevents an employee of that locality from storing at that locality's workplace a lawfully possessed firearm and ammunition in a locked personal, private motor vehicle.
Full text of bill available here (pdf).
Chief patron: Delegate Brenda L. Pogge (R) - House District 96.
Passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 71-27. Passed the Senate 26-13. Not yet signed by the Governor.
HB 754 Concealed handgun permit applications; removes option for locality to require fingerprints.
SUMMARY AS PASSED HOUSE:
Concealed handgun permit applications; fingerprints. Removes the option for a locality to require that an applicant for a concealed handgun permit submit fingerprints as part of the application. This bill is identical to SB 67.
Full text available here (pdf).
Chief patrons: Delegate Benjamin L. Cline (R) - House District 24; Senator William M. Stanley, Jr. (R) - Senate District 20.
Co-patrons: Delegate Richard P. Bell (R) - House District 20; Delegate Chris T. Head (R) - House District 17; Delegate Gordon C. Helsel, Jr. (R) - House District 91; Delegate M. Keith Hodges (R) - House District 98; Delegate Charles D. Poindexter (R) - House District 9.
Passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 72-22. Passed the Senate 27-13. Approved by the Governor on March 8.
HB 940 Handguns; eliminates prohibition on purchasing more than one in a 30-day period.
SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED:
Purchase of handguns; eliminate limitation on handgun purchases. Eliminates the prohibition on purchasing more than one handgun in a 30-day period. This bill is identical to SB 323.
Full text available here (pdf).
Chief Patrons: Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter (R) - House District 31; Senator Charles W. Carrico, Sr. (R) - Senate District 40
Co-patrons: Delegate C. Todd Gilbert (R) - House District 15 (chief co-patron); Delegate Robert G. Marshall (R) - House District 13 (chief co-patron); Delegate Richard P. Bell (R) - House District 20; Delegate Anne B. Crockett-Stark (R) - House District 6; Delegate Gordon C. Helsel, Jr. (R) - House District 91; Delegate M. Keith Hodges (R) - House District 98; Delegate Charles D. Poindexter (R) - House District 9; Delegate David I. Ramadan (R) - House District 87; Delegate Margaret B. Ransone (R) - House District 99; Senator Richard H. Black (R) - Senate District 13; Senator Thomas A. Garrett (R) - Senate District 22; Senator Bryce E. Reeves (R) - Senate District 17
Passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 66-32. Passed the Senate 21-19. Approved by the Governor on February 28, 2012.
SB 563 Concealed handgun permit; alters certain application procedures to obtain.
SUMMARY AS PASSED SENATE:
Concealed handgun permits; application procedures. Restricts the clerk and the circuit court from requesting or requiring any information from an applicant other than that which is allowed on the concealed handgun permit application and provides that if the permit is denied the court must state in the order the reason for denial when based on one of the conviction, protective order, addiction, or mental health barriers listed in the Code. The bill also requires the circuit court to issue a concealed handgun permit via the United States mail.
Full text available here (pdf).
Chief Patrons: Senator Frank M. Ruff, Jr. (R) - Senate District 15
Passed the Senate by a vote of 32-8. Passed the House of Delegates 79-20. Approved by the Governor on March 20.
These bills really don’t require much in the way of analysis; their summaries pretty much tell you everything you need to know. HB 375 adds the following to Virginia Code 15.2-915:
However, no locality shall adopt any workplace rule, other than for the purposes of a community services board or behavioral health authority as defined in § 37.2-100, that prevents an employee of that locality from storing at that locality's workplace a lawfully possessed firearm and ammunition in a locked personal, private motor vehicle.
Other additions make clear that this provision does not apply to agencies of the State and that “workplace” only means “workplace of the locality.” All in all, this bill seems to expand liberty for employees of local government entities. Now, just like anyone else, they have the right to carry their lawfully-possessed firearms with them to their place of employment. Why they should have ever been prevented from doing so in the first place is not entirely clear.
Although HB 754 is a longer bill, its effect is just as simple. Under current law, Virginia Code 18.2-308 provides as follows:
As a condition for issuance of a concealed handgun permit, the applicant shall submit to fingerprinting if required by local ordinance in the county or city where the applicant resides and provide personal descriptive information to be forwarded with the fingerprints through the Central Criminal Records Exchange to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the purpose of obtaining criminal history record information regarding the applicant, and obtaining fingerprint identification information from federal records pursuant to criminal investigations by state and local law-enforcement agencies.
The section goes on a bit about the procedure and exempts those who already hold a concealed carry permit, but the major part is the ability for a local government to require an applicant to submit to fingerprinting. That section of the Code was stricken and starting July 1 (when all of these laws will come into effect) applicants cannot be required to submit their fingerprints. At the very end, HB 754 also provides that “§ 15.2-915.3 of the Code of Virginia is repealed.” That section of the Code essentially restates the former provisions of 18.2-308.
The implications for greater liberty are fairly obvious with HB 754, I think. Assuming that a law-abiding citizen should even have to go to the trouble of getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon, this law will insure that the hurdles that can be set up by local governments are kept to a minimum. Exercising one’s right to defend himself is of paramount importance and every step toward greater exercise of that freedom is one that we as citizens ought to take and urge government to take.
HB 940 seems to be the bill that was in the news the most. Simply put, the bill repeals the portion of Virginia law that prohibited anyone from purchasing more than one handgun in a 30-day period. The law has been in place for many years now and there was significant opposition to repealing it. In the evenly-divided Senate, Democrats were nearly successful in defeating it but for the crossover votes of Democratic Senators Creigh Deeds and John Edwards (Republican Senator Thomas Norment voted against the bill).
Opponents of HB 940 cited prevention of crime as a reason to defeat the bill. It seemed to be lost on them to even consider that the people committing violent crimes involving guns are not the people who would be prevented from purchasing more than one handgun per month by the law that this bill repeals. People who commit crimes with guns tend to be relatively unconcerned with the particulars of restrictive gun laws. If they need more than one handgun in a month, they’ll find a way to get it without too much trouble. Those who were abiding by this law would have been people who are not very likely to use a gun to commit a crime. This bill, therefore, is another small victory for the cause of liberty. Unless a person uses a handgun to do violence to someone else, it’s really no one’s business but his own how many handguns he should be allowed to purchase in any given time period.
Last is SB 563 which is another bill dealing with the issue of concealed carry. The current concealed carry statuted (18.2-308) denotes a number of situations in which one does not need a permit to carry a concealed weapon. For instance, one does not need a permit to carry a concealed within his own home, nor does the law apply to law enforcement officers. SB 563 would specify that any person who is at or going to a shooting range need not have a concealed carry permit so long as "the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported." That section previously only applied to regularly enrolled members of shooting ranges. The bill also created a similar exemption from the permit requirement for "Any enrolled participant of a firearms training course who is at, or going to or from, a training location."
The meat of this bill, however, is a bit further down. The bill adds a sentence to the sections dealing with the concealed carry permit process. It says. "No information or documentation other than that which is allowed on the application in accordance with this subsection may be requested or required by the clerk or the court." Since permits are granted by the circuit courts of a particular locality there exists the possibility for localities to attempt to require applicants to jump through additional hoops before receiving a concealed carry permit. Aside from the obvious disadvantags that come with creating a potential patchwork of diverse application requirements, localities simply should not have the ability to make exercise of one's right to carry a weapon any more difficult.
With the exception of HB 375, Governor McDonnell has seen the sense in making each of these bills the law of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Reducing gun ownership or restricting people from carrying them cannot and will not reduce crime. The only effects such measures can have is to turn more people into defenseless victims of those who disregard the gun laws and to restrict the liberties of people who only want to exercise their right to self defense. Hopefully Governor McDonnell knows that and will put his signature on HB 375 as well.