he Associated Press
Published: February 11, 2010
RICHMOND — Gun owners could take concealed guns into more places, including bars, and renew their permits by mail under bills that passed a key Senate committee on Wednesday.
The Senate Courts Committee voted 8-7 to allow those with concealed weapon permits to carry hidden guns into restaurants as long as they don’t drink alcohol. Another bill would allow guns to be locked in compartments of boats or vehicles even if the gun owner did not have a concealed carry permit.
The committee did not take up a perennially unsuccessful bill to close the so-called gun-show loophole, where private sellers at the shows don’t have to perform background checks on buyers. The House already had killed a similar bill.
Senate Democrats took advantage of a newly expanded 22-18 majority to replace two retiring Republicans on the committee with two Democrats. However, one of those, Sen. Chap Petersen of Fairfax County, joined three other pro-gun right Democrats on the committee.
“It’s madness to allow guns in bars, and it’s very discouraging we don’t have the votes to stop it,“ Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, said after the meeting.
The restaurant bill passed the General Assembly twice before, but was vetoed by former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. Gov. Bob McDonnell supports the bill, a version of which likely will pass the House this week.
In Virginia, gun owners can openly carry guns into restaurants, but cannot conceal a weapon.
Supporters of the bill say it would be safer if the gun were tucked away snugly on the patron’s hip or in a purse. Opponents argue that guns and alcohol don’t mix.
Restaurant industry representatives said concealed weapons are allowed in the state’s 11,000 restaurants that do not sell alcohol, and allowing them in those that do could put bar owners in a predicament.
“It’s going to be real hard for someone to determine whether that person they’re passing a beer or drink across the bar to if they have a concealed weapon on them,“ said Robert McNulty, general manager of Sine Irish Pub in Richmond.
Restaurant owners can refuse to allow guns — whether open or concealed — into their establishments.
“Criminals don’t need permission to do anything. They don’t seek permission to do anything,“ said Jim Hollar, a member of Gunowners of America. “What this is about is the law-abiding citizen that needs to protect himself from this individual.“
Andrew Goddard, whose son was wounded during a mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 but survived, got his concealed carry permit after passing an online course even though he said he knew nothing about guns. He said that fact, combined with the concern that some people with felonies or a history of mental illness still can get permits, makes him uncomfortable with putting so much trust into concealed carry permit holders.
“I would be a lot more comfortable if I knew this meant something,“ Goddard said, holding up his permit.
Sen. Ralph Smith’s bill would allow would allow concealed carry permit holders to renew their five-year permit via mail instead of appearing in person.
A concealed carry permit would not be required to lock guns in containers or compartments in cars or boats under Sen. Jill Vogel’s bill, another proposal Kaine twice vetoed for fear it could endanger law enforcement officers. Usually, a weapon cannot be concealed unless the gunowner has a concealed carry permit.
Under current law, motorists without concealed weapons permits may put guns on the seat beside them in plain view. Vogel said locking the gun in a glovebox would be safer if children were in the car.