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The Associated Press February 17, 2010, 10:34AM ET

Va. House passes several bills to relax gun laws

A flurry of bills to make it easier to buy and carry guns handily won the approval of Virginia lawmakers Tuesday.

About 20 gun-related bills passed on the constitutional deadline for each chamber to pass its own legislative proposals. Most of the bills passed out of the gun-friendly House of Delegates, where they may face more scrutiny in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Bills approved Tuesday would repeal Virginia's ban on buying more than one gun a month, allow guns to be taken into bars, emergency shelters and locked in cars, and make it easier to get a concealed handgun permit.

Many legislators say they can't remember a year in which more bills were introduced to relax the state's gun laws. They attribute it to having a Republican governor after two Democratic terms. Former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine vetoed several gun-related bills.

"It's kind of like a pent-up demand after eight years of not being able to do much," said Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania.

Opponents attribute it to the nearly $1 million the National Rifle Association spent on Virginia elections last year, with about half of that going to Gov. Bob McDonnell's campaign.

"They didn't do that just out of good citizenship. They're expecting a return on that," said Andrew Goddard, who has lobbied against easing gun laws since his son was shot at Virginia Tech in 2007.

"This is clearly the most dangerous loosening of many, many regulations on gun possession that I can remember," said Del. James M. Scott, D-Fairfax, who has been a legislator for 18 years.

The House easily passed bills that would:

--Repeal the prohibition on buying more than one handgun a month that was enacted in 1993 because Virginia was the No. 1 supplier of guns used in crimes in other states.

--Allow gun owners without a concealed carry permit to lock handguns in a vehicle or boat. The Senate passed a similar bill.

--Allow those with a concealed carry permit to take hidden guns into restaurants that sell alcohol as long as they don't drink. The Senate also passed this bill.

--Shield those who shoot intruders in their homes from lawsuits.

--Allow concealed handgun permit holders to renew their permit by mail. This also passed the Senate.

--Restrict from federal regulation any gun made or sold in Virginia.

--Shield from public access information on concealed handgun permit holders.

--Require localities that hold gun buyback programs to attempt to sell or auction the guns to licensed firearms dealers before destroying them.

--Repeal the requirement that sellers of pistols and revolvers furnish the Circuit Court with the name and address of the buyer and other information, and require existing records to be destroyed.

--Prohibit any person, property owner, employer or business to block someone from locking a gun in their vehicle, and shield them from liability from anything that may happen with that firearm.

--Ban localities from being able to prohibit hunting within a half-mile of a subdivision, but allow them to prohibit hunting within a subdivision.

--Direct Virginia State Police to develop a plan to allow lifetime concealed handgun permits to state residents. Currently, permits are good for five years.

--Prohibit localities from requiring fingerprints for a concealed carry permit.

--Allow those who are denied a concealed handgun permit to have an appeals hearing. The Senate passed a similar bill.

--Allow those with concealed handgun permits to take guns into emergency shelters.

--Allow a retired law enforcement officer to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.

--Allow court clerks to issue concealed handgun permits to applicants who meet all requirements without judicial review.

The only real debate Tuesday came in the Senate on the guns in bars bill, which passed by the only close margin, 22-18. Most other bills had been debated extensively on Monday.

Sen. Emmett Hanger said his bill was needed so that law-abiding gun owners could protect themselves in all restaurants that sell alcohol, whether it be a fine-dining establishment or a local dive.

"I've really never been afraid for my life in a Red Lobster," quipped Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, D-Arlington.

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