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McDonnell Poised to Sign Dangerous Gun Legislation

For Immediate Release
March 17, 2010      

State Police Chiefs Describe Guns in Bars as a "Recipe for Disaster"

Richmond, VA- Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has until April 12 to take action on three unpopular gun bills that would put state residents at greater risk of gun violence:  SB 334, SB 408, and HB 1217.  Four gun violence prevention organizations-the Virginia Center for Public Safety (VACPS), the Virginia Chapters of the Million Mom March, Protest Easy Guns (PEG) and the Angel Fund-are calling on Governor McDonnell to veto this dangerous legislation and stand by a March 10 press release where he declared, "The foremost obligation of government is public safety."  

SB 334 would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring loaded handguns into establishments that have a liquor license in Virginia, including bars, nightclubs, restaurants, pizza parlors and bowling alleys.  The bill would bar permit holders from consuming alcohol while armed, but contains no mechanism to enforce this provision.  

The legislation is directly at odds with the expressed wishes of Virginia residents.  In an October 2009 Christopher Newport University poll, 68% of likely voters in Virginia answered "No" when asked, "Do you think people with concealed weapons permits should be allowed to bring their weapons into restaurants that sell alcohol?"  

SB 334 is also opposed by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association.  In a letter to Governor McDonnell on behalf of the state's police chiefs, Virginia Beach Police Chief Jake Jacocks, Jr. wrote, "We can fully expect that at some point in the future a disagreement that today would likely end up in a verbal confrontation, or a bar fight, will inevitably end up with gunfire if you sign this legislation into law."

Bar owners would be allowed to put up a sign that prohibits firearms in their establishments if the bill is signed into law, but as Robert Hodges, the owner of Bud Foster's Restaurant, noted, "How likely is someone from out of town to enter a restaurant or bar where they have a big sign posted that says 'No guns allowed?'"  

Randy Rayburn, a Nashville restaurant owner, has commented on the effects of Tennessee's gun in bars law on the state's tourism industry:  "It's very critical to our industry that our customers and our employees feel safe ... [The law] has been used against our industry by our competitors across the country to encourage tourism and conventions to not come to our cities in Tennessee."  

Another bill on Governor McDonnell's desk, SB 408, would allow those without concealed carry permits to keep loaded handguns in their vehicles or boats if stored in a locked container such as a glove compartment.  Previously, Virginia residents were required to keep loaded handguns in plain view in their vehicles so that law enforcement could easily spot weapons during traffic stops.

Finally, HB 1217 requires the Virginia Board of Education to establish a standardized program of gun safety education for students in elementary school.  The National Rifle Association's "Eddie Eagle" program is named in the legislation as being an appropriate model for the Board.  The legislation ignores numerous studies that demonstrate that familiarizing children with guns makes them more-not less-likely to handle firearms when adults are not present.

Despite the fact that the NRA's Director of Federal Affairs was a member of his transition team, "Governor McDonnell promised to pursue a moderate path as Virginia's Governor," said Andy Goddard, President of the Richmond Chapter of the Million Mom March.  "Unfortunately, rather than focusing on issues that Virginians are deeply concerned about-such as transportation, the economy and jobs-Governor McDonnell encouraged his friends in the legislature to waste valuable time considering dozens of bills promoted by the gun lobby."  

"The governor talks about the importance of public safety, but in practice he has cut millions of dollars in public safety funding from the state budget and supported a number of dangerous changes to Virginia's gun laws," said VACPS Board Member Lori Haas.  "Commonwealth families now have one last chance to hold him to his word and insist he veto SB 334, SB 408 and HB 1217."

CONTACT:  Lori Haas of VACPS at (804) 399-4893 or, Andy Goddard of MMM-VA at (804) 240-5614 or, Abby Spangler of PEG at and Joe Samaha of Angel Fund at

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