RICHMOND – With the stroke of his pen Tuesday, Gov. Bob McDonnell removed the limit on how many handguns Virginians can buy each month.
McDonnell, a Republican, signed legislation repealing the 19-year-old law prohibiting the purchase of more than one handgun per month. The repeal takes effect July 1.
The limit had been enacted in 1993 by then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat. Legislators were responding to reports that guns purchased in Virginia were used in crimes in other states.
Democrats criticized the efforts to repeal the limits.
“Despite what supporters of this bill say, this bill will make it easier for gunrunners to export violence from Virginia,” said Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington.
She had voted against both of the measures McDonnell signed: House Bill 940, sponsored by Republican Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter of Woodbridge, and Senate Bill 323, sponsored by Republican Sen. Charles Carrico of Galax.
Carrico, Lingamfelter and other supporters of the legislation argued that the one-gun-a-month limit has been ineffective and that it merely hinders law-abiding citizens, not criminals. They also said instant background checks on gun buyers have eliminated the need for the limit.
Families of the victims of the April 2007 Virginia Tech shootings asked McDonnell to veto the legislation eliminating the gun-purchase limit. McDonnell spoke with victims’ families during a telephone conference call.
During the call, the governor said he felt he had a duty to support the Second Amendment.
Some Democrats felt the same way and also voted to repeal the limit on buying handguns.
“I don’t see the reason why someone would need to own a gun a month. I don’t think there’s any reason for a person to have to buy a gun a year. But the fact is the Second Amendment guarantees people have a right to own and possess firearms unless they’re disqualified somehow,” said Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville.