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This gun safety bill is getting bipartisan support in Richmond

Handguns are displayed at a trade show in Las Vegas. The Supreme Court is granting a case on gun rights for the first time since 2010.
John Locher
Handguns are displayed at a trade show in Las Vegas.

Most bills aimed at preventing gun violence end up as party-line votes. But one bill is moving forward with rare bipartisan support.

When Democratic Senator Russet Perry, a Democrat from Loudoun County, presented her bill on auto sears, there was a moment of confusion in the committee room. Wait a minute, what’s an auto sear? Majority Leader Scott Surovell said senators were scrambling to figure out what the freshman senator’s bill was about.

"Sorry, senator. We’re trying to figure out what auto sears are up here. We did some googling to figure it out," Surovell said.

"Right, it does not have to do with Sears the store," Perry replied. "As I said when all of you were talking, auto sears are devices that are either known as switches or chips that can convert guns. They are very small, they’re difficult to detect."

Lori Haas at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence says the piece of equipment that is the target of the bill is a small but deadly switch that converts a handgun into a machine gun.

“Criminals are keeping the switch in one pocket and the handgun in the other pocket, and then they just easily click them on to the back of the firearm and then use these to create a fully automatic machine gun," says Haas. "They’re dangerous and they put our law enforcement at increased risk of harm."

Unlike most bills that end up in a party-line vote, this bill has bipartisan support. Two Senate Republicans voted in favor of this legislation in committee.

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.
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