A bill passed by the Virginia Senate on Monday will end a 19-year-old limit on handgun purchases, a move praised by gun rights activists but criticized by others that say it has helped curb gun trafficking across the state.
SB 323, which passed 21-19, eliminates the state law that prohibits residents from purchasing more than one handgun in a 30-day period. The House has already passed a version of the bill; Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has indicated he'll sign it into law, the Washington Post reported.
Those who voted for the bill say the law, passed in 1993, was outdated. Background checks and other security measures have also been introduced to effectively curb gun trafficking since then, some senators told the Washington Post.
Opponents have said easy access to firearms have contributed to tragedies like Virginia Tech, along with a host of other gun-fueled crimes across Northern Virginia in the past few years.
Sens. Chap Petersen (D-34th), Janet Howell (D-32nd) and Barbara Favola (D-31st), all Democrats, voted against the bill.
"Despite what supporters of [Virginia Senate] Bill 323 say, this bill will make it easier for gun-runners to export gun violence from Virginia," Favola tweeted Tuesday.
In an email Wednesday, Petersen said the "one-gun-a-month" tag for the law is misleading: In reality, it applies to handguns only, and concealed carry permit holders along with police and military members can already buy more than one handgun a month, he said. Residents can also buy more than one handgun a month at gun shows, Petersen said.
"Right now we have a system that works well," Petersen said. "Gun owners feel like their rights are respected in this state and this law [as is] is an acceptable compromise."
Petersen said the current law has "multiple exceptions for gun-owning Virginians who want to purchase more than one handgun per month."
"The only limitation I see is on out-of-state purchasers who attempt to buy multiple hand-guns at one time," he said.
Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-67th District) stuck to his word and voted against the bill, one of four Republican delegates to do so.
"What bugs me is that they're not just saying let's go from one to two or one to five. They're saying let's go from one to no limit," LeMunyon told Patch . "So you have a situation of someone who is fairly young, doesn't have a criminal record so there's no background to check, who can buy 500 of these things and turn around and sell them illegally. Six hours later they're in New York. If I were a gun bad guy, that's exactly what I would do."
Gun rights have emerged in several other bills this session: At least five are still alive in the Senate, with four more on tap in the House.