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Virginia Senate Rejects Attempt to Allow Guns on Campuses

RICHMOND, Va. — A Senate panel rejected what gun-control proponents called a back-door attempt to get firearms on college campuses Friday, as several measures on both sides of the gun issue were defeated in a usually gun-friendly House committee.

Sen. Jill Vogel’s bill would have prohibited state agencies, including colleges and universities, from enacting gun laws that are more stringent than those passed by the Legislature. The Senate Rules Committee rejected the proposal on a 12-2 vote.

Vogel said it was never her intention to target colleges and universities. She said gun owners deserve consistency in gun laws, and that elected officials — not state bureaucrats and college boards — should set those guidelines.

“These are decisions that the legislature should not delegate,” said Vogel, R-Winchester.

Last month, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld George Mason University’s prohibition against guns in campus buildings and at sports and entertainment events. The policy does not bar guns from open campus grounds.

A gun owner who is not a student but uses the school’s libraries and other facilities had challenged the school’s policy. The court relied on Virginia’s law specifically granting state agencies those policymaking duties in its decision.

Robert Sadtler, a gun owner from Richmond, said agencies have “a crazy quilt of patchwork rules and regulations.”

“All we gun owners want is clarity, uniformity,” he told the committee. “This bill will not affect criminals in any way, whether it dies right here or it becomes law on July 1. This bill is for those of us who want to follow the law.”

Opponents, including university leaders and campus police officials, said guns have no place on college campuses.

Bill Ward, a legislative liaison for Norfolk State University, pointed to increased anxiety and political discourse nationwide and said Virginia’s colleges and universities should remain “safe havens for students to learn and live.”

“Too often, public venues such as playgrounds, parks and our academies become the killing fields of America,” he said.

Others questioned allowing guns on college campuses, where alcohol abuse is common and different people often are thrown together in small dormitories.

Gun control advocates won some other victories in the Republican-controlled House, where the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee agreed to strike several bills that would have made it much easier to get and carry guns. Sponsors said there were issues with some of them that would be too difficult to work out with the Tuesday deadline for each chamber to pass its respective bills.

One proposal would have done away with the requirement to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Another would have made permits issued in any state good in Virginia. Virginia already recognizes permits issued in more than half the states.

The committee also rejected several anti-gun measures, including requiring background checks from all buyers at gun shows and banning the sale of magazines that hold 20 or more rounds of ammunition.

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