RICHMOND (WRIC)—On Wednesday morning at the General Assembly, gun control advocates and Democratic lawmakers unveiled their agenda for this year's legislative session: keeping guns away from violent criminals and the mentally ill.
This is an issue that seems to come up in the General Assembly each year, but the results from last November's election have Democratic lawmakers hopeful they can enact new measures.
State Senator Donald McEachin, State Senator Barbara Favola and Delegate Marcus Simon introduced four bills aimed at limiting access to guns by those who are involuntarily committed for mental health treatment, and those who are convicted of stalking or violent sex crimes.
ABC 8 News spoke with Sen. McEachin, who says the discussion of gun safety at the General Assembly is long overdue.
"It's all about safety," McEachin said. "No one contests that Virginians have the right to bear arms, but there are certain people who have legal impediments from owning those arms, or being allowed to have those arms. We just want to make sure that they don't get their hands on guns, which are dangerous."
Andrew Goddard, whose son was shot during the Virginia Tech massacre, was the first to speak out at Wednesday's announcement.
"We need to make sure that we're weeding out the few people who do not intend to use those guns for sporting or other legit purposes," he said.
Goddard has worked with lawmakers for years to cut down on gun violence. The proposals outline requirements for background checks on all commercial sales, and limits gun access for those involuntarily treated for mental illness.
"It is not to stigmatize anyone or beat up on any segment of the population," McEachin said. "It's all about safety."
But David Hancock, a local gun store manager, says not all mental treatment is documented.
"Most of ‘em weren't even under treatment that I can find," Hancock said. "So I don't really see where this is going to help."
Sen. Favola wants to take gun regulation a step further, with a proposal to ban gun ownership five years for those convicted of stalking or sexual battery.
"This is a bill that each and every one of us would want to see passed, because we know how important it is to keep our families safe," she said.
Hancock said, "We've got enough laws on the books. We've got state background checks, federal forms, and when a person buys a gun, we enter the information into the state police computer system."
McEachin added that public support is starting to shift toward more gun regulation.
Though Gov. McAuliffe has not yet commented on these specific bills, he has said he supports some increased gun restrictions.
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