Gov. McAuliffe to introduce tougher gun safety legislation

Updated: Oct. 6, 2017 at 6:24 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Las Vegas massacre prompted Governor Terry McAuliffe to again call for more gun control, Friday. McAuliffe wants to ban the device used by gunman Steven Paddock to speed up his gunfire. He also promised to crack down on semi-automatic guns and high-capacity magazines.

One of the governor's proposals would specifically ban bump stocks. A bump stock intensifies semi-automatic weapons to perform nearly like an automatic. McAuliffe said of the Las Vegas tragedy, "…it allowed the shooter to kill and injure so many people in such a short period of time."

Investigators say Steven Paddock used a bump stock on 12 of the 23 weapons found in his hotel room.

"The gun recoils back, and it just keeps moving back and forth, and that's what causes the gun to keep rapid firing," explained firearms trainer and Security Operations Services owner Jeff Picchi.

Picchi also owns The Smoking Gun Shooting Range in Colonial Heights, and he says he's been inundated with calls for bump stocks this week.

"Yesterday, I got about ten calls," said Picchi.

However, Picchi doesn't carry them, nor do many gun shops locally. NBC12 called about a dozen weapons stores in the Richmond area. We found bump stocks in RVA were largely sold out. It's the same story reported in other areas of the nation, with many customers likely anticipating a future ban on the device.

Governor Terry McAuliffe promised Friday to put forward legislation to ban not only bump stocks, but military-style assault rifles fitted with high-capacity magazines. The Trump administration and other GOP legislators said they are not opposed to looking into regulating bump stocks.

"We will be looking into that over the next short period of time," said President Trump, responding to a reporter's inquiry.

Those opposed to the idea argue there are multiple other ways, besides bump stocks, to increase firepower, and assert that the root issue of violent shootings is the person using the weapon, not the weapon itself.

Bump stocks have been around for less than a decade. The government, during president Obama's administration, approved selling them, after concluding they didn't violate federal law.

Here is a statement from Governor McAuliffe:

The terrible tragedy we witnessed in Las Vegas earlier this week should be a wakeup call to leaders in every corner of this country, particularly here in Virginia, where the mass shooting at Virginia Tech taught us the heartbreak of these events firsthand. Elected officials who have the honor of serving here in Richmond have a responsibility to do everything we can to prevent the next mass shooting from happening in our Commonwealth. I have asked my public safety and policy teams to draft legislative items the next General Assembly can pass to keep Virginians safe from the gun violence that has become all too common in our nation.

In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, much attention has been paid to the 'bump stock' device that allowed the shooter to kill and injure so many people in such a short period of time. We have a responsibility to ban that device in Virginia, and I will introduce legislation this session to do just that.

But our efforts cannot stop there. The shooter in Las Vegas, much like the shooters in the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Sandy Hook Elementary School, and many other horrible mass tragedies, was armed with military-style assault rifles fitted with high-capacity magazines. Those guns and magazines were not created for hunting or self-protection – they exist to allow a shooter to wound or kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Today, a person with intentions of committing the next mass shooting can walk into gun stores or shows across our Commonwealth and walk out with these weapons of war. I will ask the General Assembly to keep our families safe by banning the sale or possession of these items next year.

Additionally, my administration has tried every year to work with the General Assembly on common sense gun safety measures like universal background checks and reinstating Virginia's one-handgun-a-month policy. Unfortunately, Republicans in both chambers of the legislature have blocked those measures from passing. We cannot credibly say that we have done everything we can to keep people safe while criminals can still buy firearms at gun shows without presenting identification to anyone and gun traffickers can still buy limitless handguns to sell across Virginia and the nation.

These common sense actions will make Virginia safer. They will not threaten the rights of individuals to responsibly bear arms to protect themselves or to hunt. They will not prevent every act of violent crime, but these steps will make it harder for dangerous people to acquire dangerous weapons, and send a signal to Virginians that their leaders are doing everything they can to keep them safe.

Between now and the end of my term, my team and I will continue to fight every day to reduce gun violence and make our communities safer. The people of this Commonwealth deserve leaders who will not prioritize partisan agendas or special interests groups over the safety of our families and communities. I intend to submit a set of bills to the General Assembly to advance the important work of making Virginia safer and I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will work to pass it.

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