The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Thursday, February 02, 2006

New delegate handed first legislative defeat; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

WOODSTOCK — Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, has been in office for 23 days and already he’s taken some big legislative swings.

He’s got hits, and he’s got misses.

The freshman delegate was handed his first legislative defeat when a bill that tackled what is normally a noncontroversial subject — stronger rules against child pornography — died in committee.

“The first one that got killed was one that clarified” definitions of child pornography, Gilbert said.

When it comes to laws against the production of child pornography, “if it looks like child porn, it is child porn” as far as the law is concerned.

“The depiction is intended for it to look like a child, under the current law, we presume that the child is under 18,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert wanted to extend that same provision to the state’s laws against the possession of child porn, but hit resistance at the committee level.

“There was some concern that someone taking [a] picture of their 18-year-old or 19-year-old girlfriend” would be prosecuted for child pornography, when everyone involved were adults and the photos or videos weren’t for distribution.

Gilbert’s most controversial bill to date also ran out of gas in committee.

House Bill 1572 would have prohibited colleges and universities from creating rules dealing with concealed carry permits for firearms.

Critics, including some Virginia colleges, said the bill would have needlessly brought guns into the college classroom.
That wasn’t the intention, according to Gilbert.

Rather, the bill was written for “the 22-year-old female graduate student who may have been the victim of a violent sexual crime,” he said.

Someone in that situation may well have applied for and received a concealed carry permit, he said, and “public colleges and their campus aren’t secure facilities.”

“All the sudden you have a university telling her she has to leave her gun at home,” he said. At places like Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, that might have tragic results.

Richmond is “the fifth most dangerous city in America” according to recent federal statistics, Gilbert said, and “she has to walk all the way to her car.”

“The bill was intended to be a clarification of state law,” he said. “That’s the thing … there’s a discrepancy. No one is really sure where the law is on that.”

Some of Gilbert’s other significant bills have plenty of momentum behind them.

House Bill 1311 would make anyone who kills a witness cooperating with police and prosecutors eligible for the death penalty.

Gilbert said the bill comes from his experience with the Brenda Paz murder. Paz, a gang informant, was killed in Shenandoah County 21⁄2 years ago to keep her from testifying against other gang members.

State law makes killing police a capital crime to protect officers, Gilbert said. He hopes the bill will give someone second thoughts before they try to silence a witness.

“If we don’t protect them, then we’re really dropping the ball,” he said.