LaRock gun bill passes House

Posted: January 23, 2014

The Winchester Star

Dave LaRock

RICHMOND — Following an increase in the time allowed for law enforcement to OK the ownership of certain weapons, the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association is now more in favor of a firearms bill sponsored by 33rd District Del. Dave LaRock, R-Hamilton.

The bill, which passed the House of Delegates Wednesday on a 64-32 vote, gives a jurisdiction’s chief law enforcement officer or a designee 30 days to respond to a request for certification needed for a civilian to possess a Class 3 weapon. The bill, which adds the time frame requirement and stipulates that a reason be given for denying ownership to the current law, must still pass the state Senate and be signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Examples of Class 3 weapons include machine guns, silencers and short-barreled firearms.

“The federal law [prevents] you from having a machine gun [without following certain steps],” Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper said.

Anyone wanting to own such a weapon must apply to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he said, and part of that process includes receiving certification from local law enforcement to ensure there isn’t something in a database that wouldn’t show up in a federal check and prevent the person from having the weapon.

LaRock’s bill originally gave the chief law enforcement officer a 15-day turnaround, but that was changed to 30 in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.

Additionally, if the certification check reveals the applicant is prohibited by law from getting the firearm, the officer must put that reason in writing and give it to the applicant.

The Virginia Sheriffs’ Association was opposed to the bill as it was originally written, according to Executive Director John Jones.

“Our sheriffs like it better,” he said Wednesday of the time extension. “There are still some sheriffs that object to it because they don’t want these guns in their locality, and they don’t feel like they can determine for sure whether or not the person is qualified.

“The bill is much better than it was. It takes some time to do the check. I think we will still testify on it, but we won’t object as strenuously as we did.”

Roper has no objection to the bill.

“It really doesn’t matter much to me,” he said. “From my perspective, we can turn those things around in a hurry. I just certify that we don’t have anything that [the ATF] wouldn’t have. We probably get six or eight a year from collectors, people like that.”

Roper said he doesn’t recall a certification being turned down.

LaRock said Wednesday from Richmond — where he is in session with the General Assembly — that most jurisdictions have been cooperating with the certification requests, but that some hadn’t been responding at all and that the requests were “being tucked in a drawer.”

“They can still respond the same as they did before, which would be to indicate if there was a bona fide reason why the applicant couldn’t receive a firearm,” he said. “One of my constituents brought it to my attention.”

— Contact Sally Voth at svoth@winchesterstar.com