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Howell: Virginia 'Going Backwards' on Gun Safety

Photo: Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) and Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston)/file photo

Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) says that the commonwealth is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to gun control measures in Virginia.

“Gun safety measures were defeated in close, almost party line, votes,” Howell said about last week in the current Virginia General Assembly in an email to constituents.

“Sadly, we continue to go backwards on reasonable gun safety measures. Closing the gun show loophole was defeated. My bill prohibiting the possession of firearms by those charged with family violence failed. Also defeated was reinstating the ‘one gun a month’ limit on gun purchases.”

“When in effect, that limitation had effectively stopped Virginia from being the gun running capital of the East Coast. A bill to allow guns on school property passed through committee. Another bill to let concealed weapons permit holders purchase lifetime permits also passed through committee. It is still possible that some of the reckless bills may be defeated during the legislative process. It is not possible that the reasonable gun safety bills (that are supported by almost 90 percent of voters) will pass.”

Howell was the chief patron on SB 909, which prohibits a person who is subject to a protective order from possessing a firearm. Under currently laws, such person is only prohibited from purchasing or transporting a firearm and such conduct is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The bill was defeated 10-4 in the Courts of Justice Committee on Jan. 26.

Said Howell: “During the debate on the gun bills we consistently heard testimony from the NRA and Citizens Defense League on one side and, on the other side, State Police, local police, Commonwealth Attorneys, police benevolent societies, victims groups, Chiefs of Police, and — poignantly — family members of victims of gun violence. Needless to say, the NRA and CDL always prevailed.”

Efforts to repeal the medically unnecessary ultrasound procedure prior to an abortion failed. So did efforts to remove the 24 hour waiting period after the ultrasound procedure.

Another Howell bill, SJ213 proposed the repeal of the constitutional amendment, approved by referendum in 2006, that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and prohibits the Commonwealth from recognizing same-sex marriage.

That bill again failed on a party line vote. However, Howell says there is the “remote possibility that a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation may pass the Senate.”

In her email, Howell also expressed disappointment over laws she supported once again not passing committees.

Among them:

Several bills aimed at allowing local school boards to determine their own calendar, which sailed again, meaning schools cannot open before Labor Day unless they get a weather related exemption.

“I support letting the local school boards set their own opening date,” says Howell. “However, the tourism industry always defeats the bills.”

Howell says she also supports bills, still in committee, that allow parents to purchase cannabis oil for their children with rare and severe forms of epilepsy. On the House side, Howell’s counterpart, Ken Plum (D-Reston) is the chief patron of a similar bill currently in the Courts of Justice committee.

“I strongly support the bill and really don’t understand the objections,” said Howell. “The children are having dozens, sometimes hundreds, of seizures a day and some seizures are causing brain damage. Because Virginia does not allow use of medical marijuana oils, some families are leaving the state at great personal and professional cost and others are probably breaking the law to help their children. Sometimes I feel we are losing compassion with our inflexible policies to fight drug use.”

Track all of Howell’s — and other senator’s — bills on the Virginia Legislative Session website.