Amid fiery speeches, Virginia Senate passes first batch of gun bills

Amid fiery speeches, Virginia Senate passes first batch of gun bills
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Richmond. (Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Senate passed an initial wave of gun bills Thursday amid denunciations from Republicans and assurances from Democrats that they were responding to voters’ demands for stronger firearm safety laws.

Two bills — one to restore the state’s previous one-handgun-a-month rule and another empowering local governments to ban guns in public buildings, parks and at permitted events like political protests — passed the Democratic-controlled chamber 21-19 along party lines.

The third, a bill requiring background checks for all gun sales, passed 23-17, with two Republicans voting with the Democratic majority.

Relegated to minority status in last year’s General Assembly elections, Republicans could do little but thunder against the legislation on the Senate floor.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is probably the first assault on the Second Amendment. And we’re going to see many after that,” said Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, who argued the bill giving localities control over guns in public spaces would create “little pockets here and there where guns are good and guns are bad.”

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said the proposal would give local officials the option of restricting guns in certain areas to keep their residents safe, but doesn’t force any city or county government to do anything it doesn’t want to do.

“I think the public would be a lot better served if we toned down the hyperbole and focused on the facts,” Surovell said.

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