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

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Va. Senate OKs bill to conceal gun in car; B1

Amendment would require firearm to be in a locked area

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

A bill that would let drivers legally carry guns in their glove boxes came under heavy fire in the Virginia Senate on Monday, but passed after some heated debate.

House Bill 1106, offered by Del. Clifford L. “Clay” Athey Jr., R-Front Royal, as amended by the Senate, clarifies that it is legal for drivers to carry a gun in the glove box or other compartment of their car, provided it is locked.

It passed 23-17. The bill passed the House of Delegates 60-39 in February, albeit without the “locked compartment” language.

Virginia law allows, in most cases, for the open carrying of firearms, including inside a car. But it takes a permit issued by a court to carry a concealed weapon — and a gun in the glove box counts as a concealed weapon.

“I was surprised when I learned that it was not legal,” Athey said Monday.
Athey said he thinks his bill clarifies a “gray area” in Virginia’s gun laws, but brought it forward for more personal reasons.

“My wife and I travel from Warren County to Richmond on a very regular basis,” he said. And when they go, they’re packing heat.

“People generally don’t get murdered every day [in Front Royal] like it seems they do here in Richmond,” he said. “Richmond is not a very safe place. Traveling on the road isn’t very safe as well.”

Athey said he wanted to make it possible for people, like his wife and legislative aide, to put a gun in the glove box and leave it there.

“My wife is not someone who’s a gun aficionado. She has no interest in getting a concealed weapons permit,” he said. The couple are expecting twins in the not too distant future, and “it doesn’t make a lot of sense” for the law to encourage people to “leave a loaded gun in an open car with children in there.”

Sen. Kenneth Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, a former law en-forcement officer, argued against changing the law, on the grounds that it would make the already dangerous job of police that much more dangerous.

“Anybody can carry a gun in a vehicle.” Anyone can carry a gun, including “drug dealers,” Stolle argued. Loosening the restrictions on firearms in such a way will “jeopardize the safety of every law enforcement officer” who makes a traffic stop.

“You’re losing control over concealed weapons,” he said.

Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Springfield, cited the recent death of state Trooper Kevin C. Manion in his opposition.
Manion was killed while in-vestigating a vehicle crash in Clarke County. A gun in a wrecked pickup discharged, and he was struck in the chest.

Saslaw said he had just “signed a memorial resolution” for Manion. “I would hope we don’t have any more memorial resolutions” for fallen officers, he said.

But Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, R-Centreville, argued that someone who would use a firearm for ill intent wouldn’t be stopped by a law. And the people who would be legally allowed to put a gun in the glove box can legally keep the gun in the seat right beside them.

Speaking after the House session on Monday, Athey said he agreed with the substance of Cuccinelli’s argument.

“Someone who is going to commit a criminal act is going to commit a criminal act,” he said. “Law-abiding citizens are not.

Somebody who is going to do a drive-by shooting isn’t going to care if they’ve got a misdemeanor conviction tagged on for carrying an illegally concealed weapon.”