By Ashley Jordan
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Virginians who have a concealed handgun permit could legally transport loaded shotguns in vehicles under a bill that passed the House of Delegates on a split vote this week.
Delegates voted 62-34 Wednesday in favor of Senate Bill 1137, which would exempt concealed carry permit holders from local ordinances that bar the transportation of loaded shotguns or rifles. Republicans generally favored the measure, while Democrats opposed it.
State law now says, “The governing body of any county or city may by ordinance make it unlawful for any person to transport, possess or carry a loaded shotgun or loaded rifle in any vehicle on any public street, road, or highway within such locality. Any violation of such ordinance shall be punishable by a fine of not more than $100.”
Existing law exempts law enforcement officers, military personnel and “any person who reasonably believes that a loaded rifle or shotgun is necessary for his personal safety in the course of his employment or business.”
SB 1137, introduced by Republican Sen. Thomas A. Garrett of Hadensville, would add, “The provisions of this section shall also not apply to lawful concealed carry permit holders.” The bill cleared the Senate on a 25-13 vote on Feb. 2.
Supporters of the legislation said it would be beneficial to hunters who might want to travel from one site to another with their rifles pre-loaded.
Opponents, like Democratic Del. Scott A. Surovell of Mount Vernon, said the bill is potentially dangerous.
During Wednesday’s House session, Surovell said the legislation conflicts with safety advice from gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association.
He said loaded shotguns on the road could be problematic in high traffic areas like Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. He cited several occurrences in which loaded shotguns were used in road rage incidents around the country.
“We are legislating a policy here that the manufacturers disagree (with), that our hunter education courses disagree with, that has been proven to cause altercations and death in traffic situations,” Surovell said. “It’s just bad policy, and we are basically legislating people to do something other than we teach them.”
Kevin Carroll, president of the Virginia State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, also opposed the bill. He said that for him, the issue was not about guns in traffic but about a locality’s right to set policy.
“The localities should have an opportunity to pass an ordinance as to whether or not they feel it is appropriate,” Carroll said. “They are the ones who are issuing the concealed weapons permits. They should be the ones to determine whether or not they feel it’s appropriate.”
Carroll said loaded long guns in vehicles represent a threat to officers’ safety. He referred to an incident in which a rifle accidentally went off and shot a state trooper while he was assisting a vehicle in an accident. The loaded rifle was jostled during the crash and went off, killing the officer.
“We think it’s a safety issue for the public,” Carroll said. “It’s a safety issue for the law enforcement officers. And we think the law is fine the way it is and should say the way it is.”
How they voted
Floor: 02/18/15 House: VOTE: PASSAGE (62-Y 34-N)
YEAS – Adams, Anderson, Austin, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Berg, Bloxom, Byron, Campbell, Cline, Cole, Cox, Davis, DeSteph, Edmunds, Fariss, Farrell, Fowler, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Ingram, Joannou, Jones, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, LaRock, Leftwich, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, Miller, Morefield, Morris, O’Bannon, O’Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pillion, Pogge, Poindexter, Ramadan, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Scott, Stolle, Taylor, Villanueva, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Yost, Mr. Speaker – 62.
NAYS – Albo, BaCote, Bulova, Carr, Filler-Corn, Futrell, Herring, Hester, Hope, James, Keam, Kory, Krupicka, LeMunyon, Lindsey, Mason, McClellan, McQuinn, Morrissey, Murphy, Plum, Preston, Rasoul, Rust, Sickles, Spruill, Sullivan, Surovell, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Watts, Yancey – 34.
NOT VOTING – Hugo, Lopez, Minchew, Simon – 4.