The move last month to undo reciprocity agreements with more than
two dozen states with requirements that fall short of Virginia's
infuriated many gun-rights advocates, who argued it infringed the
constitutional rights of gun owners.
In return for reinstating the agreements, Democratic Gov. Terry
McAuliffe said the leaders of the Republican-dominated legislature
had agreed to a requirement to make state police available for
voluntary background checks for private sales at all gun shows.
The issue of gun control has become heated in recent years after a
series of mass shootings at schools, shopping malls and other public
venues across the country. Advocates of tighter controls say the
government must do more to keep weapons out of the hands of
criminals and the mentally ill, while opponents say new restrictions
would violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Of 77 firearms shows in Virginia last year, state police were
present to run voluntary checks at only 42, the governor said.
McAuliffe, who supports tighter gun control, pledged to make more
money available to expand police background check efforts.
He said expanding background checks had always been his primary
issue in gun control legislation.
The bipartisan compromise would also prohibit individuals with
permanent protective orders from possessing a firearm. McAuliffe
said it was an effort to remove guns from domestic violence
The proposal had previously been a non-starter among Republicans.
"The measures we announce here today will save lives,” McAuliffe
said, emphasizing that the compromise struck a balance between
public safety and individual rights.
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In a prepared statement, Democratic Attorney General Mark R. Herring
expressed approval but he did not attend the press conference at the
state Capitol announcing the deal.
"I’m encouraged to finally see a bipartisan conversation about how
we can reduce gun violence and keep guns away from dangerous
individuals,” Herring said.
He added that the measure of success for the agreement, when it
finally emerges from the legislative process, is whether it makes
William J. Howell, the powerful Republican speaker of the House of
Delegates, said the agreement was not about who won and who lost.
“Virginia won, and that’s all there is to it,” Howell said, standing
behind a podium flanked by Republican and Democratic lawmakers as
well as representatives from domestic violence groups.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and James Dalgleish)
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