House-Controlled Subcommittee Considers Gun Legislation

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Several pieces of gun legislation filed by lawmakers in the Virginia House of Delegates are dead on arrival. Thursday night, a GOP-controlled subcommittee referred only one bill on its docket to the larger committee.

Legislation before the subcommittee ranged widely, with bills favored by both gun rights and gun control advocates.

On the gun control side, a bill sponsored by Delegate Patrick Hope sought to require background checks for every gun purchase, including private sales and gun shows. Another bill proposed by fellow Democrat Joe Morrissey would have made the sale of assault rifles and high capacity magazines illegal.

Both measures failed to make it out of subcommittee.

Morrissey caused a spectacle on the floor of the House of Delegates Thursday, when he brought out an unloaded AK-47 from beneath his desk. Some Republican lawmakers later joked they wanted to buy the gun from Morrissey.

Gun rights advocates favored a bill by Delegate Bob Marshall that would require school boards across the state to train and arm volunteer staff members at schools in their districts. Despite very vocal public support at Thursday night's meeting, and the support of several subcommittee members, a unanimous vote referred Marshall's bill to Governor Bob McDonnell's new School and Campus Safety Task Force.

Marshall is frustrated with the decision, worried it will mean certain death for his legislation.

"I hope the task force understands the urgency we need to proceed with," Marshall said.

Delegate Todd Gilbert, a subcommittee member and co-patron of Marshall's bill, says it would have been irresponsible to push the bill through without ensuring the concept is part of a larger conversation about gun violence prevention and school safety.

"Just because a particular member thinks this is the solution to all the problems does not make it so," Gilbert said. "And we want to be especially thoughtful and deliberate, especially since this is such a raw, emotional issue."

Preliminary recommendations from the School and Campus Safety Task Force are due to the governor by January 31.

Senate lawmakers will consider their own batch of gun legislation Friday morning.