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Virginia Domestic Violence Gun Bill Struck Down

RICHMOND, Va. -- House Republicans agreed Friday to study a measure that would strip gun rights away from people convicted of stalking or domestic assault.

The Virginia Senate had already approved the proposal, but it was headed for certain death in the House of Delegates, where a more conservative majority was concerned about tinkering with 2nd Amendment rights.

The bill was tabled on a party-line vote Friday in a House subcommittee, but members agreed to ask the Virginia State Crime Commission study the issue.

Felons already lose their right to possess firearms, and there's been a push for several years to add a handful of violent misdemeanors to the list of crimes that trigger the prohibition.

Senate Bill 510 focused on domestic assaults and stalking charges. It would have made it illegal for anyone convicted of these crimes to possess a gun for five years. After that, the person's firearms rights would have been restored automatically.

A violation within the five years would have been a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison.

In arguing for the bill, sponsoring state Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, said a history of violence is the best predicter of violence. She ticked off support from several state law enforcement groups.

"Please do not champion the rights of violent criminals over women's safety," she said.

Committee members agreed to ask for more study, at Favola's urging. Beyond that, the die was cast against the bill before the meeting began.

"Misdemeanors should never take away a civil right, period," Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, said after the meeting.

There's already a way to take away gun rights from serious criminals, Van Cleave said. Charge them with felonies.

"If a wife slaps her husband and she really doesn't do any serious harm to him, should that be a felony? Probably not," he said. "If someone does some serious harm ... that should be a felony."

Copyright 2014 - Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service