RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia House Republicans have voted down a range of bills that would have added new restrictions on firearms, including a ban on assault-style weapons, a college campus gun ban and a gun-storage bill that were priorities for Democrats.
The Thursday evening votes underscore that major action on gun laws is unlikely this year, given the divided control of the General Assembly.
On a 6-4 vote, a House Public Safety subcommittee defeated a bill from Democratic Del. Dan Helmer that would have expanded the definition of “assault firearm” and prohibited the import, sale, transfer, manufacture, purchase or transport of such a gun.
The subcommittee also voted down a measure from Democratic Del. Sally Hudson, who represents Charlottesville, that would have made it unlawful to carry a firearm in any building owned or operated by a public institution of higher education.
Virginia colleges already ban weapons through their administrative processes, but those policies don't carry the “full force of law” and leave law enforcement without the authority to enforce them, Hudson said.
A similar bill has been advancing in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The police chief of the University of Virginia, where a campus shooting in November left three football players dead and two other students injured, has testified in support of both measures. Hudson also said the measure was supported by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.
Representatives for the Virginia Citizens Defense League and NRA spoke against the bill.
“It creates a new gun-free zone without doing enough to protect and secure the facilities that we’re talking about,” said D.J. Spiker, a lobbyist for the NRA.
The bill was also voted down 6-4.
The panel also defeated a bill that would have tightened gun storage requirements. Del. Marcus Simon, the bill’s sponsor, invoked the case of a 6-year-old Newport News student who police say shot his teacher when explaining why he thinks the bill is necessary.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League and NRA also opposed Simon's bill.
The same subcommittee advanced measures supported by gun rights groups that are likely to be defeated in the Senate. Among them was a measure from Del. Dave LaRock that would roll back the authority of localities to prohibit guns in certain public areas such as parks and community centers.