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Sunday, March 1, 2009

General Assembly Wrap-Up

The 2009 Session of the General Assembly adjourned yesterday. The last couple of years have been somewhat lean for pro-rights legislation compared to the Warner years when one year alone saw 17 pro-rights bills signed into law. Still, this year was a good year for the right to keep and bear arms - at least where the legislature is concerned. We still have to get the signature of the less than pro-rights Governor, Tim Kaine. While he has signed some pro-rights legislation in the past, he vetoed two very important bills related to self-defense last session. He will have the opportunity to do the right thing again this year when Senator Hanger's SB 1035 - the bill repealing the ban on carrying concealed in restaurants that serve alcohol - hits his desk in the coming days. Below is the list of bills that passed both houses of the Assembly and are on their way to the Governor.

Senate Bills

SB 877 - Senator Martin's bill that allows "retired" law enforcement officers to carry concealed in a restaurant that serves alcoholic. Unlike Senator Hanger's bill that applies to the rest of us, retired law enforcement officers will be able to consume alcohol while, if they wish. Given that Governor Kaine signed a similar bill for Commonwealth Attorneys last year while vetoing the one applying to the rest of us, it will be interesting to watch Kaine's contortions should he sign Senator Martin's bill and veto Senator Hanger's bill.

SB1035 - Senator Hanger's bill mentioned above that repeals the ban on carrying concealed in restaurants that serve alcohol. The notification provision that required someone carrying to notify a designated restaurant employee was removed from the bill.

SB 1383 - Senator Stolle's bill that repeals Virginia's statute related to possession of an unregistered silencer (federal law will still apply).

SB 1513 - Senator Smith 's bill that allows courts to award attorney fees to anyone challenging a local ordinance, resolution, etc., that is in conflict with Virginia's preemption statute, and winning the suit. The bill originally required awarding of court costs but the Senate amended it making awarding of court costs permissive. While not what we would have liked, it is a step in the right direction and will hopefully put localities on notice (Norfolk) that violating the preemption statute may have consequences.

SB1528 - Senator Cuccinelli's bill clarifying that the safety course conducted by a state-certified or National Rifle Association-certified firearms instructor required for obtaining a concealed handgun permit may be done electronically or on-line.

House Bills

HB 1655 - Delegate Carrico's companion bill to Senator Smith's bill above.

HB 1851 - Delegate Lingamfelter's bill that exempts active duty military from handgun rationing (one gun-a-month).

HB 2144 - Delegate Nutter's bill codifying Attorney General McDonald's opinion that the State Police cannot release the list of concealed handgun permit holders. The information however would still be available through local circuit courts but they only have the list of CHP holders in that particular locality.

HB 2528 - Delegate Cole's bill that require localities that wish to operate a compensated gun confiscation program (gun buybacks) that they have to pass an ordinance to that effect and that they will have to offer the guns taken for sale to an FFL or dispose of them in some other legal manner. As introduced, it was mandated that the guns be sold to an FFL but Senator Stolle weakened the bill allowing localities to continue destroying the guns rather than offer them for sale. While the bill is not what we would have likes, it does place some much needed sunshine on these schemes and before participating in such a scheme, taxpayers would have prior notice as there is a public procedure to pass a new ordinance.

We also defeated all of the bad gun bills that were introduced this year. First and foremost, we defeated Senator Marsh's perennial bill attacking private sale of firearms at gun shows. We also stopped a 150% increase in the tax on gun owners charged for running background checks. A complete list of bills that were defeated, as well as some good bills that never made it out of the House committee to which they were assigned, can be found here.

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