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State Reps Discuss Gun Control, Budget with McLean Residents

Legislators discussed priorities for Virginia's 2013 General Assembly in Wednesday town hall.

On Wednesday evening, when Virginia Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) announced her plans to introduce legislation that would fix a loophole allowing Virginia residents to purchase firearms from some dealers at gun shows without undergoing background checks, more than 200 McLean residents showed their support with a round of applause.

Similar legislation has been introduced during past legislative sessions, but has not passed, Howell said.

"I’m hopeful that this year we’ve had tragedies of such magnitude that reason will prevail," she said.

But reforming the Commonwealth's gun control laws is only one of many legislative priorities lawmakers representing McLean voiced Wednesday during a town hall meeting at the McLean Community Center.

Funding transportation, budget issues, expanding Medicaid and other priorities are also on the legislator's agendas.

Howell, with Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31), Del. Bob Brink (D-48), Del. Barbara Comstock (R-34) and Del. Mark Keam (D-35), participated in the forum. 

Comstock said she wants to introduce a bill to ensure 75 percent of acceptance offers made by Virginia colleges and universities should go to in-state applicants. She also wants to tackle Lyme disease testing. 

Brink, a member of the House of Delegates since 1998, said the legislature is dealing with a lot of budget uncertainty.

"We are finally climbing out of the great recession. Our general fund revenues in our budget have reached the level that they were at in 2008, but at the time time….we still have tremendous uncertainty in our budget and a large part of that uncertainty is due to our neighbors across the river," Brink said.

"The fiscal cliff would have hit Virginia disproportionately," he said. "Virginia is the number one recipient of federal procurement dollars on a per capita basis. We are extremely dependent on federal grants and direct federal spending."

The upcoming legislative session starts Jan. 9 in Richmond.

Did you attend the town hall meeting in McLean? What issues do you think state legislators should address in the General Assembly? Share your ideas in the comments section.

Gigi January 03, 2013 at 01:39 PM
My opinion is that one of the best things about college was meeting people from other places - I can't imagine that limiting Virginia schools to almost solely Virginians would result in a change for the better. The schools will no longer get the national recognition they currently benefit from and the quality of the student body will decrease if applicants are selected primarily on geographic data rather than academic achievement.
Christiane Lourenco January 03, 2013 at 02:23 PM
I agree that meeting people from other places is important; however, as a Virginia native, graduate of James Madision University, and now resident of Virginia with children who will hopefully attend one of our great Virginia universities, I have heard the many trials of parents whose children cannot get into Virginia universities and not because of their academic standings, but rather the universities are accepting more out-of-state tuition paying students than an in-state tuition paying students. If the students have equal academic standings, than I agree that Virginia students should indeed be given a certain advantage. I'm not sure 75% should be the number, but I would like to see a study done to see what other universities do in other states. Something else to note....many friends who joined me at JMU (also native Virginians) are now living and working in VA - giving back to the state in taxes and revenue and probably, along with me, hoping our kids have the opportunity to attend a great VA university some day. Most out-of-state students end up returning to their home state. Just my two cents worth.
W. R. Knight January 03, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Ensuring that Virginia colleges accept at least 75% Virginia residents is hardly limiting Virginia schools solely to Virginians.
J. Jay Volkert January 03, 2013 at 06:02 PM
Barbara Comstock was the only panel member that did not directly address the issue of gun control or an asualt weapon ban. She is out of touch with her district. The aduience at the MCC was difinitely in support of better gun regulation in Virginia.
Greg Brandon January 04, 2013 at 02:07 PM
Barbara Comstock chose to blame the human Y chromosome and the media for gun violence instead of supporting practical solutions such as assault weapons ban, closing the gun show loophole, and requiring manufacturer-installed trigger locks. It makes me think that she will propose a bill to convert all of Virginia's abortion clinics into neutering clinics.
Rob Jackson January 04, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Greg, the United States Supreme Court has ruled mandatory trigger locks are unconstitutional. Mark Keam also mentioned that in his remarks Wednesday night. I can see some logic in requiring a private sale purchaser to get a background check, but the concept of banning "assault rifles" does compute. What is an assault rifle? When they were "banned," they continued to be made because one could easily make something that functioned the same, but didn't fit the law's definition. We would be much better off were the federal government to impose a tax on the manufacture and transfer of magazine clips beyond a specific size. As you likely know, that's how the ATF controls access to automatic weapons. One out of every two households in the United States owns a firearm. Firearms will no more be banned than abortions. The only sensible approach is to address large clips through taxation. If you have a large clip and transfer it without paying the tax, you go to jail. You go to a gunsmith to request such a clip be manufactured, you get tossed out on your ear. He's not going to risk his license to accommodate you. It's a much more effective way of addressing the problem than trying to ban certain guns because they look "scary" to some people.
Greg Brandon January 04, 2013 at 05:19 PM
Barbara Comstock voted to imperil bicyclists last year by casting the deciding votes for two bills: 1) A bill that would prevent motorists from following a bicyclist more closely than is reasonable. Virginia appears to be the only state where bicyclists are excluded from "following too close" provisions; and, 2) A bill that "Requires drivers to exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian or the operator of a human-powered vehicle." Virginia is one of only four states without this provision. When the bicycle question came up, she evaded anything that resembled an indirect answer, much less a direct answer. Instead she let the audience infer that she works closely with Supervisor John Foust on all issues related to bicyclist and pedestrian safety and well-being. We need direct answers to direct questions, Del. Comstock.
J. Jay Volkert January 04, 2013 at 08:17 PM
Common sense policies like closing the gun show loop hole, background checks for every gun purchaser, and reinstating the assualt rife ban seem doable. Yes the ban was law for a number of years and is not perfect but undoubtably keeps automatic weapons out of the hands of a few unstable persons. Don't see a downside risk or 2nd amendment issue. In any event Comstock should address the issue openly
Rob Jackson January 04, 2013 at 10:06 PM
Mr. Volkert - your comments are inconsistent with the facts or the law with respect to firearms. You appear to be confusing automatic and semi-automatic weapons. (Whether this is purposeful or not, I don't know.) The former are machine guns that are not generally available under federal law. We don't need any changes in the law to make sure automatic weapons are off the street. We simply need to enforce what is already on the books. An assault rifle is typically regarded as a weapon with a switch that, when operated, allows the weapon to be fired either on an automatic basis (pull the trigger and the weapon fires continuously until the trigger is released or the magazine is empty) or a semi-automatic basis (one shot per each pull of the trigger). Since automatic weapons are illegal for most people to own and under most conditions, you cannot generally own an assault rifle as defined above. On the other hand, there are millions of semi-automatic rifles lawfully owned and used by Americans all over the nation. Why don't you talk with Mark Keam, who knows what the facts are and the law is?
J. Jay Volkert January 05, 2013 at 02:50 PM
Mr, Jackson- I left "semi" out of my previous reply. I apologize for the error. Thank you for the lesson on gun technologies. You make an intelligent argument for your position. This is the type of discussion we should have. We need to do a better job dealing with gun violence.
Rob Jackson January 05, 2013 at 03:21 PM
Mr. Volkert, I agree with you. There is way too much emotion and misinformation about guns. I took the time, as did Mark Keam, to do some research on the issues. It would be helpful for the media and our elected officials to do the same. There are probably some things we can do to make it more difficult for those with violent tendencies to purchase weapons and limit the size of magazine clips, while protecting Second Amendment rights. As part of my research I learned that, in the 1990s, a gun control organization purposely began confusing the public about the meanings of such terms as "semi-automatic," "automatic" and "assault rifle." Until I did some research, I was not certain about their exact meanings either. This PR effort did a major disservice to the public. We need to be more precise, not less, IMO. Making decisions on the basis of what something (or someone) looks like is not good public policy. I've read where we have more guns in the United States than people. Every second household owns at least one firearm. Guns are not going away, and I think broad statements suggesting they will or should is counter-productive. It inspires people to buy more guns and ammo.
Rob Jackson January 05, 2013 at 03:40 PM
The Feds don't mess around with anyone possessing an automatic weapon without a license, which are not simple to obtain. No convicted felon can own one under any circumstances. The U.S. Attorneys prosecute these crimes. http://www.fbi.gov/sanantonio/press-releases/2012/felons-receive-maximum-sentence-for-illegal-possession-of-machine-gun
Greg Brandon January 06, 2013 at 08:01 PM
The mere presence of a gun increases the risk that it will be used. As this 2004 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology titled "Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study" (http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929.full) finds "Those persons with guns in the home were at greater risk than those without guns in the home of dying from a homicide [or suicide] in the home." Although the study is from 2004 and uses data from the 1993 "National Mortality Followback Survey," I sincerely doubt that human nature has changed much in the past 20 years. Convicted felons and violent people may be the least of our problems. If only there were a way to print warning labels on guns. Or, the phone number of a suicide prevention hotline.

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