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Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoes multiple pro-gun bills in Virginia

Keeping with his promise to push for more gun-control laws, the Virginia governor vetoed three firearms bills.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe listens as midterm election results are announced during an election night rally Nov. 4, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski /AFP/Getty)
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe listens as midterm election results are announced during an election night rally Nov. 4, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia.

Keeping with his promise to push for greater gun safety in his state, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed three firearms bills approved by lawmakers during the state's 2015 legislative session, despite a state Senate committee refusing to pass 10 of his gun-control measures in January.

McAuliffe vetoed the three bills last week, following the end of the legislative session on Feb. 28. Lawmakers will return to Richmond on April 15 to consider the governor's vetoes. McAuliffe's actions are expected to be upheld because the Virginia Senate is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Senate Bill 1137 would have allowed concealed carry permit holders to carry a loaded shotgun or rifle in their vehicles on any public street or highway, regardless of local laws.

"From drawing legislative lines outside of the constitutional process, to loosening Virginia gun laws and unnecessarily disrupting the ability of law enforcement and the Virginia Board of Education to do their jobs, these bills do not make Virginia stronger or more competitive," McAuliffe, a Democrat and gun owner, said on Monday.

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Senate Bill 948 would have prevented Virginia State Police from sharing information — including that which could reveal a permit holder's criminal background — on concealed handgun permit holders with law enforcement officials in states that don't have reciprocity agreements with Virginia. The Old Dominion State recognizes concealed handgun permits issued by other states, under certain conditions. The bill, opponents argued, could hamper criminal investigations in other states and put Virginia's law enforcement officers at risk.

House Bill 2009 would have required local chief law enforcement officers to provide a certification or denial to an applicant for the transfer of a machine gun within 60 days. McAuliffe determined the bill restricts the authority of local authorities to make their own decisions about machine gun transfers.

In December, McAuliffe said he would push for several gun-control efforts, including renewing the state's one-a-month limit on handgun purchases, prohibiting people convicted of misdemeanors for domestic violence from possessing firearms, and requiring residents to pass background checks when buying firearms at gun shows or on the Internet. Grassroots organizations and many legislators around the country continue to fight for gun laws to extend to all commercials sales. Almost half — 40% — of all guns in the United States are sold through private sellers without the requirement of passing a background check, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. That's comparable to four out of every 10 people being allowed to bypass security at the airport. 

But the state's Republicans rejected McAuliffe's proposals as political posturing to please a liberal Democratic base, The Washington Post reported at the time.

Pro-gun residents earned a slim victory over McAuliffe in this legislative session because his previous proposals didn't progress in the legislature, said Erich Pratt, director of communications for Gun Owners of America.

Most of the measures introduced in state houses across the country in recent months focus on protecting citizens' Second Amendment rights, such as campus carry and constitutional carry. At least six states currently allow constitutional carry, which permits residents to possess a gun without a permit or license, Pratt added.

"People who are law-abiding don’t want to break the law," Pratt told msnbc. "What we've effectively done is we've made it so the bad guy is the only one with the gun, hence there's not going to be any opportunity for anybody to act as a deterrent."

Virginia received a “D" grade, ranking 20 out of the 50 states in the most recent annual scorecard published by the Law Center at the end of 2014. Local governments in Virginia generally lack the authority to regulate firearms or ammunition, and local courts must issue a concealed handgun permit to any applicant who meets basic qualifications.

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During his State of the Commonwealth address in January, McAuliffe said residents "can no longer stand by as our fellow Virginians are lost to preventable and senseless acts of gun violence."

"Even one Virginian’s precious life is too high a price to pay for our inability to reach a reasonable compromise on gun safety," he added.

The governor, who is a close friend to Bill and Hillary Clinton, was first elected in 2013. Virginians re-elected him narrowly during the midterm elections last November.