Republicans moved a step closer to revoking Virginia’s long-standing one-handgun-per-month ban Tuesday.
The House of Delegates gave preliminary approval to a bill that lifts the prohibition after Republicans argued that the law has been rendered obsolete by new technologies. The bill could get a final House approval Wednesday before heading to the Senate.
The ban was put into place in the mid-1990s at a time when handguns purchased in Virginia were showing up at crime scenes up and down the East Coast. Supporters of the measure, including then-Gov. Doug Wilder, said the law was necessary to curb gun running and straw purchases of guns by legal buyers who later turn the guns over to criminals.
Democrats defended the ban Tuesday, saying it dramatically decreased the number of Virginia-bought guns traced to out-of-state crimes. Eliminating the ban “will erase 18 years of sound empirical evidence that stopped people from coming down to Virginia to purchase guns,” said Del. Joseph Morrissey, D-Henrico.
But Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, insisted the law restricted honest citizens who wanted to purchase guns but does nothing to stop criminals from getting their hands on weapons on the black market.
Numerous exemptions, like the one for trade shows, have also made the ban unnecessary over years, as has technology that tracks a gun once it is purchased, Republicans said.
“If the one gun a month is a good idea why do 46 states not have this law?” asked Lingamfelter.
Similar measures have passed the House in recent years only to die in a more moderate Senate, but the new Republican make up of the General Assembly is likely to make it easier to abolish the ban. For his part, Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, has said he would sign legislation lifting the ban.