House OKs license plate but not laws curbing gun violence

Chris Collins

Virginia legislators might not back laws that proponents say will curb gun violence but they do support license plates that push the same goal.

The House of Delegates on Friday voted on a bill to authorize the issuance of special license plates for supporters of stopping gun violence. The plates would feature the legend STOP GUN VIOLENCE. Delegates voted to pass the bill 88-9 then 88-8 with one abstention on reconsideration of the first action.

Del. Marcus B. Simon, D-Falls Church, sponsored the bill in the House. Local delegates Christopher E. Collins, R-Winchester, Michael J. Webert, R-Marshall, Wendy W. Gooditis, D-Boyce, and Dave A. LaRock, R-Hamilton, voted in favor of the bill.

Collins gave his reasons for supporting the bill in an email Monday.

“The funds from the sale of these plates will be utilized to help fund mental health in the Commonwealth and I feel it important to find new sources of funding for our mental health issues,” Collins stated. “All the costs associated with this new plate are paid by the person requesting the plate so there is no taxpayer impact.”

Todd Gilbert

Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, joined several Republican colleagues on Friday to oppose the bill. Gilbert claimed the bill unfairly targeted firearms as a source of violent acts.

“I am opposed to violence in all forms,” Gilbert stated in an email Monday. “I also oppose continued efforts by the political left to create a narrative against lawful gun ownership. The only time they ever blame a crime on the instrument and not the perpetrator is when a gun is involved.”

Delegates Richard P. Bell, R-Staunton; Benjamin L. Cline, R-Amherst; Nicholas J. Freitas, R-Culpeper; R. Steven Landes, R-Verona; Israel D. O’Quinn, R-Bristol; Charles D. Poindexter, R-Glade Hill; and Thomas C. Wright Jr., R-Victoria, voted against the bill. Del. Dawn M. Adams, D-Richmond, abstained during the second vote.

The Department of Motor Vehicles offers more than 250 specialty license plates for universities, wildlife, historic and natural resources, tobacco heritage, U.S. armed forces and military veterans. The state also offers a plate for the National Rifle Association.

Most of the delegates who voted against the license plate bill have accepted campaign cash over the years from lobbying groups such as the National Rifle Association. The NRA has given $2,750 to Gilbert’s political campaigns from 2005 through 2017. The largest contribution of $1,000 was donated in October 2015, according to information provided by the non-profit Virginia Public Access Project.

Landes received $1,250 from groups supporting gun rights and firearms dealers through 2015. Richard “Dickie” Bell has received $1,250 from the NRA. Cline has received a total of $2,500 in contributions from the NRA between 2004 and 2017 as well as $1,000 from the Virginia Citizens Defense League. The NRA gave Freitas $500 in August. O’Quinn received $150 from the NRA in September. Poindexter received $500 from the NRA between 2007 and 2017.

Collins and LaRock also have received campaign contributions in recent years from gun rights groups such as the NRA. Collins and LaRock voted against an earlier version of the bill when the Transportation Committee reported it to the full House.

At the same time, the House of Delegates has been less supportive of legislation pushed during this General Assembly session that is intended to curb gun violence or the spread of illegal firearms. Legislation all but dead in the House includes:

• A requirement that a person who lawfully possess a firearm to report the lost or theft of the weapon to law enforcement agencies.

• Removal of the option for concealed handgun permit applicants to demonstrate competence with a firearm by taking online, video or electronic courses conducted by a state-certified or National Rifle Association-certified instructor.

• A requirement for a background check for any firearm transfer and requirement that the state police set up a process for those transferring to obtain such a check from licensed dealers.

• Allowing localities to regulate the possession of or carrying of firearms, ammunition or components into any building owned or used by such a locality for government purposes. State law prohibits localities from adopting or enforcing such an ordinance, resolution or motion with the same purpose.

• A bill that would make a person civilly liable for injuries to person or property or wrongful death of another caused by a third party if it can be shown that the civil defendant sold or transferred a firearm to the person who committed the crime resulting in injury or death without obtaining a background check and verification that the transferee was not prohibited from possessing a firearm.

• A bill that would eliminate the recent expansion of the recognition of concealed handgun permits issued by other states.

• A prohibition on the sale or transfer of large-capacity firearms magazines.

• A prohibition on devices such as bump-stocks designed to increase the rate of fire for any semi-automatic firearm.

• A requirement that any dealer who sells, trades or transfers more than two firearms to one person in a single transaction report such transaction to the state police.

• A prohibition on the carrying of a loaded shotgun or rifle in public places in the city of Roanoke.

• A requirement that a criminal history record information be performed on a prospective transferee before a vendor can transfer firearms at a gun show.

• A prohibition on anyone convicted of a simple assault hate crime from purchasing or transporting a firearm for five years following the conviction.

• A bill to allow localities to adopt ordinances prohibiting the possession, carrying or storing weapons, firearms or ammunition within 1,000 feet of a demonstration, march, parade, protest, rally or similar event. The ordinance would not apply to any law enforcement officer, armed security officer, member of the Armed Forces or reserves or National Guard.

• A requirement that licensed family day homes store firearms and ammunition as well as other weapons in a locked closet, cabinet or container during operating hours unless carried lawfully by an individual. The bill required such weapons be stored unloaded and apart from ammunition and that the key or combination to the storage places be kept out of reach of children in the family day home.

• A requirement that promoters of a firearms show include in the list of vendors or exhibitors submitted to the state police any information regarding whether or not a vendor or exhibitor was selling or transferring a firearm.