For Immediate Release
June 30, 2010
Lawmakers Who Voted for Controversial Law Include Some Not-So-Usual Suspects
Under the law, individual business owners will still have the opportunity to prohibit the carrying of firearms in their establishments by posting signs. The Virginia Center for Public Safety (VACPS) has teamed up with Gunfreespaces.org to provide business owners in Virginia with the tools to secure their establishments and identify them as being gun-free. PDFs of pre-made signs for establishments can be downloaded free of charge at Gunfreespaces.org.
The guns in bars law has met with a great deal of controversy in part due to the state’s lax screening and training requirements for concealed handgun permit holders. A 2009 law (SB 1528) sponsored by then-Senator Ken Cuccinelli now allows Virginia residents to satisfy the “training” requirement to obtain a concealed handgun permit by visiting a website, watching a video, and taking a 20-question, multiple-choice test online.
Recently, two individuals who were directly affected by the 2007 shooting tragedy at Virginia Tech—Lily Habtu and Andy Goddard—were able to obtain permits despite the fact that they have never even held handguns, much less fired them. Because of reciprocity agreements, SB 334 will also allow concealed handgun permit holders from 22 other states to carry firearms into bars in the Commonwealth. Many of these states, like Virginia, have menial permitting requirements.
On January 19 of this year, Christopher Bryan Speight shot and killed eight people (including four children) in Appomattox County. Speight—who was recently found mentally incompetent to stand trial—became the third individual permitted to carry a concealed handgun in Virginia to commit a mass shooting in the last two years, joining Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter; and Aaron Jackson, who killed his girlfriend and two children (ages 2 ½ and 1 ½) in Stafford County in May 2008.
Yet, despite these disturbing events, several lawmakers in districts that typically support strong public safety measures voted to allow concealed handgun permit holders to bring loaded weapons into bars. This group includes the following legislators:
.Delegate Dave Nutter (R-7th District), who represents the City of Radford and parts of Montgomery and Pulaski Counties. The Delegate can be reached by concerned constituents at (540) 382-7731.
.Delegate Jim Shuler (D-12th District), who represents the City of Covington and parts of Montgomery, Alleghany, Bath, Craig, and Giles Counties. The Delegate can be reached by concerned constituents at (540) 953-1103.
.Delegate Barbara Comstock (R-34th District), who represents parts of Fairfax County. The Delegate can be reached by concerned constituents at (703) 209-3787.
.Delegate Mark Keam (D-35th District), who represents part of Fairfax County. The Delegate can be reached by concerned constituents at (703) 350-3911.
.Delegate Tim Hugo (R-40th District), who represents parts of Fairfax County. The Delegate can be reached by concerned constituents at (703) 968-4101.
.Senator John Edwards (D-21st District), who represents the City of Roanoke; all of Craig and Giles Counties; and parts of Montgomery, Pulaski and Roanoke Counties. The Senator can be reached by concerned constituents at (540) 985-8690.
.Senator Chap Petersen (D-34th District), who represents the City of Fairfax and part of Fairfax County. The Senator can be reached by concerned constituents at (703) 349-3361. “The guns in bars law seems to have taken many business owners across Virginia completely by surprise,” said Andy Goddard, President of the Richmond Chapter of the Million Mom March, “largely because its enactment so completely defies common sense.”
“Guns and alcohol don’t mix under any circumstances,” said Lori Haas, an advocate in the gun violence prevention movement since the wounding of her daughter during the Virginia Tech Massacre. “It is unfortunate that our legislators have decided to put the priorities of a narrow special interest group above the safety of Virginia’s families.”
Notably, the official platform of the Democratic Party of Virginia states: “We believe that keeping Virginia's citizens safe and secure, both at home and abroad, is one of the most vital functions of government … We continue to support common-sense firearms safety legislation.”
The Virginia Center for Public Safety (formerly known as Virginians Against Handgun Violence) is a statewide organization that was founded in 1992 after a young person was shot outside a school in Hampton Roads. The organization seeks to create a safer Virginia through education, public forums, youth outreach, and work in the public policy arena. VACPS believes that a chief cause of gun violence is the easy access that criminals and youth have to guns in the state.
As the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, working with its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, is devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.
ProtestEasyGuns.com is a grassroots protest movement of Americans that emerged in response to the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history at Virginia Tech. We are outraged at how easy it is to obtain a gun in the United States and believe it is time to change lax laws that allow criminals and dangerous individuals easy access to guns. Each of the movement’s “Lie-In” protests includes 32 individuals (symbolizing the number of students and teachers murdered at Virginia Tech) who lie on the ground for just a few minutes (signifying the brief amount of time it takes to buy a gun in the United States). Our goal is to encourage like-minded citizens to stage their own protests around the country so that we can influence the public discourse and ultimately the legislative process with regard to this critical national problem.
Angel Fund is the family, friends, neighbors and advocates of Reema Samaha, who was tragically killed on April 16, 2007 at Virginia Tech by a lone gunman, along with 31 other students and faculty. There were many complex issues that contributed to the Virginia Tech tragedy: mental illness, campus safety and security, lack of information sharing, privacy and gun laws. We would like to address those policies and laws we felt contributed to the tragedy and to seek practical and reasonable solutions to avoid another similar tragedy. We, therefore, would like to honor Reema’s memory by making the world a safer place through education, advocacy and implementing practical solutions.