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Democrats in the state Senate are blocking efforts to roll back gun control laws

This Wednesday, June 29, 2016, photo shows guns on display at a gun store.
Alan Diaz/AP
This Wednesday, June 29, 2016, photo shows guns on display at a gun store.

Gun rights are on the agenda at the Virginia General Assembly, although efforts to weaken recent laws aimed at preventing gun violence don't seem to be going anywhere.

When Democrats were in control of the General Assembly and the Executive Mansion, they approved a host of new laws aimed at preventing gun violence. Now Republicans are hoping to undo some of those new laws, like the one that allows local governments to prohibit firearms in city parks and county libraries.

D.J. Spiker of the National Rifle Association says that creates a patchwork of laws that are impossible to follow.

"Fairfax County's ordinance is different than Falls Church's ordinance, which is different than the town of Herndon's ordinance, which is different than Loudoun County's ordinance," Spiker says. "The patchwork is very real. If you are a gun owner trying to follow the law in northern Virginia, you cannot do it because you do not know what's going to happen from locality to locality."

The Senate committee that hears all the gun bills rejected that proposal on a party-line vote along with several other bills introduced by gun enthusiasts. One of those bills would have allowed former police officers and judges to carry firearms without getting a concealed carry permit. Andrew Goddard at the Virginia Center for Public Safety says that bill is unnecessary.

"It's cheaper and easier to get a concealed carry permit in Virginia than it is to adopt a kitten," explains Goddard.

For now, it looks like a Democratic majority in the Senate will stop any effort to weaken Virginia's gun laws. But the next election for the Senate is in 2023, and this is an issue that will certainly be a part of the discussion in that campaign.

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

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.