Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall
A new state law going into effect July 1 will restore the gun rights of some convicted felons, though not without controversy.
Sponsored by Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall, House Bill 2286 allows any person who had their rights fully restored in another state to possess firearms in Virginia. Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe signed the bill earlier this month with no changes, amending the current law that prohibits convicted felons in Virginia from owning guns.
Webert, in supporting the restoration of gun rights, said Virginia has long sanctioned the reinstatement of voting rights for felons from other states. He quoted the first U.S. president in making his point.
"This measure is a positive step to help persons who have repaid their debt to society," Webert said. "George Washington once said, 'To err is natural, but to rectify error is glory.' I believe this legislation lives up to that principle."
Culpeper Town Councilman Jon Russell, chairman of the public safety committee, congratulated Webert and McAuliffe on passing "such an important piece of legislation."
Russell said, "Just like restored voting rights, felons who have worked hard to be on the right side of the law should have their 2nd Amendment rights returned. It's refreshing to see there is still some common sense bi-partisanship in the commonwealth."
Michael McClary, with the Culpeper County Democratic Committee, called the legislation "silly," saying it was "an easy lift" for Webert. He said going up against current day "NRA hysteria" about gun rights is political suicide for any Virginia politician, regardless of party affiliation.
"The argument that if we are going to give felons their voting rights then we should give them their guns is pretty undeniable. Hence, the governor's signature," McClary said. "What is a shame in the commonwealth and in the country is that very few politicians are willing to work to try to bring down all the widespread killing, maiming and suicides being perpetrated by our well-armed and mostly unregulated citizens, and of course, the criminals."