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Lawmakers Press Local Governments to Pass Gun Measures

AP Photo / Cliff Owen

Lawmakers who were unsuccessful in accomplishing gun control during the General Assembly are shifting their focus to local governments across Virginia.

Should drivers be allowed to carry loaded shotguns and assault rifles around in their car? A growing list of local governments is saying no.  And now state lawmakers are pressing local governments to adopt ordinances outlawing loaded shotguns and rifles on public highways.

Democratic state Senator Scott Surovell is part of a group asking for action from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Prince William Board of Supervisors.

“A lot of localities just didn’t realize they had the authority," he said. "But, I think with the events that have just unfolded coupled with the march that just happened in D.C., I think you’re going to see a lot more local governments start to look at this statute and to try and do something at the local level because we just haven’t been getting it done at the state level.”

Not so fast, says Phillip Van Cleave of the Citizens Defense League. He says guns are more useful if they are loaded. 

“An unloaded gun isn’t of much use in an emergency," he said. "That’s a well known fact. Ask a police officer if they walk around with unloaded guns. I think they’re going to tell you no. And this is the same thing they are asking citizens to do. Well you need to unload your guns. Really? Why?”

The General Assembly gave local governments the ability to ban loaded shotguns and rifles about 20 years ago. Since that time 11 counties and seven cities have adopted ordinances. More may be added to that list soon, although that’s a debate that will play out at the local level in town halls and government centers across the commonwealth.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.