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Video: Howell Looks Toward 2013 Session

Residents talk Silver Line, gun laws and other issues as legislators prepare for Virginia General Assembly Session.

Gun control was on the minds of residents Thursday- as well as Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) - as Howell and Del. Ken Plum (D-36th) held their annual public meeting in advance of the Virginia General Assembly session that begins next week.

In the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Howell told constituents she will work at the 46-day session to close the gun show loophole in Virginia: a law that allows people to easily purchase a gun at a show without a background check.

"Virginia is deplorable in what we do," in regards to gun purchases, Howell said at the meeting Thursday evening at Reston Community Center. Howell, whose district includes parts of Vienna and Tysons, added the lack of funding for mental health services is also a problem.

After the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, the state added $40 million in mental health services, "all of which has been taken away in the recession," Howell said.

Howell also said she will work to expand Medicaid and find money to help fund Phase 2 of Metro's Silver Line, which will run from Reston's Wiehle Avenue to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County.

Howell said she will work with Plum, Del. Tom Rust (D-86th) and Sen. Mark Herring (D-33rd) to try and procure $150 million for three years to help offset costs to toll road users, whose rising tolls will have to pay for Phase 2 because the project has received no federal funding.

Several residents urged Plum and Howell to fight for common-sense gun laws, but one resident challenged them to consider armed staff members in schools.

"I am offering a flip side to the argument," he said. "I would put a lot of faith in those who have concealed carry permits [to keep the schools safe]. They are not yokels. They are people who have a lot of background checks and training."

Other topics on which residents voiced concern: the Silver Line and rising tolls; the upcoming closing of the residential training centers for severely disabled adults; the uranium mining ban; Lyme disease; and women's issues such aschanges to standards for abortion clinics  (which could in effect shutter most facilities) and other reproductive rights issues.

Virginia's General Assembly convenes Wednesday for the 2013 session.

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