Va. House panel OKs repeal of gun-purchase limit

By Bill Sizemore
The Virginian-Pilot
© February 12, 2010

A House of Delegates committee endorsed legislation this morning that would repeal Virginia’s one-handgun-per-month law, striking a blow against the state’s most recognized gun control statute.

By a vote of 15-6, the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee sent the bill to the full House for a floor vote, despite objections from opponents who complained that the legislation was rammed through a subcommittee and the committee with little public notice.

Supporters of the House Bill 49 said the state’s limit on handgun purchases has lost its effectiveness since it was passed in 1993. The bill’s sponsor, Del. Scott

Lingamfelter, R-Prince William County, said lawmakers have chipped away at the law by carving out an array of exceptions over the years.

Gov. Bob McDonnell has said that he favors repealing the law, even though he voted for it as a legislator in 1993.The one-handgun-per-month restriction was a signature initiative of former Gov. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat.

Lingamfelter said the gun restriction “may have had a purpose in 1993 when it was passed.”

“But if it did, the rationale for this statute has been neutered by all the exemptions that now exist,” Lingamfelter said.

Lingamfelter also noted that background check technology has improved since the law took effect.

“In reality, one gun a month, as it is euphemistically referred to, does not stop crime,” Lingamfelter said. “Criminals who are inclined to break the law don’t obey this one.”

Opponents of the bill said scrapping the law would, among other things, open the door for straw purchases of guns that would be resold to criminals and others who couldn’t pass an instant background check.

“If someone walks into a store and buys 10 brand new Glocks, they’re not putting them into their own pocket for their own protection,” said Andrew Goddard, whose son was wounded in the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. “They’re buying 10 new Glocks because they’re trying to sell them to somebody.”

All of the committee’s Republican members supported Lingamfelter’s bill, as did Democrats Jim Shuler of Blacksburg and Lynwood Lewis of Accomac.