Restrictions on handgun purchases loosened in Virginia after Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) repealed relevant legislation, despite opposition from the families of those affected by the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.
McDonnell signed a bill Feb. 28 that repealed legislation passed in the early 1990s that limited an individual’s handgun purchases to one per month.
The bill was signed after McDonnell met with the families of students who were killed or injured during the Virginia Tech shooting. The families asked McDonnell to veto the bill, arguing that public safety may be put in danger when guns are made more accessible.
“I had a very emotional, a very informative discussion with the families, who told me why I should veto the bill,” McDonnell told The Roanoke Times on Tuesday afternoon, before his office announced that he had signed the bill.
McDonnell’s decision to sign the bill came as no surprise — before the legislation process began, he said that he was against gun rationing. He also explained that more extensive background checks and new laws pertaining to handgun purchases would help maintain public safety.
McDonnell and fellow Republican legislators who approved of the bill also questioned whether having legislation that limited handgun purchases actually deterred criminals from obtaining them.
However, the public has remained largely supportive of the law that was established in 1993 when Virginia was a key armory for East Coast crime.
Students have expressed mixed opinions about the bill. Some students feel less safe knowing that restrictions on obtaining guns have been repealed.
“I feel less safe knowing that anyone could buy any amount of guns. … It is kind of unnerving,” Amy Roberts ’13 said. “They say that there are background checks that are successful in protecting the public, but a lot of people buy guns every day to cause harm to others, and you can’t always catch that.”
Other students agree that the repeal makes them uncomfortable.
“The fact that there is no restriction on the amount of guns someone can buy seems crazy. … I definitely feel less safe knowing that,” Lana Hill ’12 said.
Some students who remember the shootings at Virginia Tech felt that McDonnell should have heeded the pleas of the families who were personally affected by the incident.
“The repeal almost seems to lend less significance to the fact that the horrible shootings at Tech happened so recently,” Roberts said. “Especially when the families tried to persuade the governor to keep safety in mind first.”
Not all students are uncomfortable with the new bill.
“I, personally, am okay with this,” Johnathan Malbon ’13 said. “I am a gun advocate, but at the same time want to feel safe on campus. I think maybe a law depicting an age where you can purchase as many guns as you want in a month would be a common ground.”
Malbon believes that the repeal will not immediately affect safety.
“I’m not saying that the Virginia Tech families are wrong for not wanting as many guns purchased per month — they have gone through something I doubt many of us have imagined,” Malbon said. “I personally don’t feel that this law will show an increase in shootings on campus and same vice versa if a law permitting a specific number was passed. We also know that just because someone can’t purchase a gun, doesn’t mean they won’t be able to get their hands on one.”