What does the Virginia Constitution actually say about guns?

Section 13. Militia; standing armies; military subordinate to civil power.

That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

The Virginia Constitution, accepted by the Virginia Constitutional Convention June 12th 1776, served as the model for the development of the US Constitution's Bill of Rights when the Articles of Confederation were deemed an ineffective framework for the federal government. It is within the Bill of Rights that the right to bear arms is defined under the Second Amendment. There is a key distinction between what the Virginia Constitution says about the right to bear arms and what the US Constitution says: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The Bill of Rights does not specify that training to arms is a condition of the right to bear arms. I believe the language in the Virginia Constitution allows for better competency measures than are currently in place.

Responsible Ownership

My dad was and remains a hunter and nuisance animal trapper so I grew up around guns. We were only permitted to handle the guns when he was home to make sure we had a safe, supervised target practice. My husband served in the US Marine Corps and was a Marksmanship Instructor. He maintains a keen interest in target shooting and teaching others to safely handle their weapons. We decided together that we would not permit any kind of toy guns in our house- not squirt guns, not paintball guns, not BB guns- because we both own guns. We don't want there to be a mistaken impression that pointing a gun of any kind is part of play. 

Whenever I read about a child's injury or death as a result of an accidental discharge, I cringe. I cannot imagine the horror and sorrow experienced by the parents of that child. The truth is that there is no safe place to "hide" a gun, least of all a loaded one. There is no dresser top high enough, no depths of a closet that cannot be plumbed, and no place under a bed a child cannot crawl. 

Concealed Carry in Virginia

Competency requirements, disqualifications

-Item 14: An individual who has been convicted of any assault, assault and battery, sexual battery, discharging of a firearm in violation of Section 18.2-280 or Section 18.2-286.1 or brandishing of a firearm in violation of Section 18.2-282 within the three-year period immediately preceding the application. I would support action to extend to 5 years this disqualification period.

Open Carry in Virginia

A few years ago, a young man carried an AR-15 into a Charlottesville-area Kroger grocery store. This stunt caused panic as well as a rapid police response and a sharp rebuke from the NRA. The best quotation from the event came from a Charlottesville police Lieutenant: "What was the necessity of carrying it in there and alarming mothers, fathers and their children? And it alarmed us. It alarms law enforcement."

While open carry may be legal, it is intimidating to unarmed bystanders. Brandishing a firearm "in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another of being shot or injured" is a Class 1 misdemeanor under the code of Virginia (18.2-282). When a clearly-visible gun is introduced into a situation where people are unaccustomed to seeing one, the immediate reaction is one of fear.

The current restrictions on where guns may or may not be carried need to be re-examined and tightened. At present, it is a misdemeanor to bring a gun or other weapon to a place of worship while a religious service is being held, but what about when that site is used as a polling place for public elections? Many of our polling places are located within houses of worship and better protections are needed to ensure safety of our citizens when exercising their most basic civic rights of all: participation in the formation of their government.

Private Gun Sales 

Straw sales and their impact on illegal gun possession: I spoke at length to a 4-year veteran of the Richmond City Police Department about guns seized as part of an arrest. Of particular interest to me was how these guns were obtained. Were they sold directly to the individual by another individual? Stolen from someone else? No, he replied. During questioning, the recurring theme was that the guns were obtained legally by an individual with no criminal history by means of a straw sale; a straw sale commonly being understood as an individual purposefully obtaining a gun in order for use by someone not permitted to have a gun in his/her possession. A review of arrest records bears up "felony gun possession" more often than we should be comfortable with. A way to reduce the flow of guns into the hands of those who should not have them would be to reinstate the limit of one handgun per month. Handguns are, by and large, the weapon of choice due to the ease of concealment. Statistics on deaths in the line of duty for law enforcement officers tracked by the FBI bear up that handguns account for the greatest share of officer deaths.

Note: (Handguns and Compliance with Virginia Code 18.2-308.1:4)

Virginia Firearms Transaction Program