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Sun Gazette: Legislators’ Gun Effort Part Substantive, Part Showbiz Print


Created:  Wednesday, January 16, 2013 




Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th) holds the firearm he purchased as a recent

gun show. Hope is among legislators introducing what they call

"common-sense" new gun legislation. (Photo by Mary P. Dooley)


Whip it out and show it off to the assembled press corps, and a legislator in Richmond is bound to get some coverage.

But Del. Patrick Hope said his Jan. 15 attention-grabbing effort on gun control was as much about substance as it was a stunt.

Hope (D-47th) used a press conference at the Capitol to brandish a High Standard Sentinel .22 revolver he had purchased during a foray to a gun show. Under Virginia law, the seller was not obligated to run a background check on Hope or obtain much information about him to conduct the transaction.

"The main thing is for people to know how easy it is to buy a gun without a criminal-background check," Hope said at his office after the media event, held in conjunction with state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th).

(Ebbin was at the same gun show, and on Jan. 15 showed off a 30-round ammunition magazine he purchased for $20. Under current Virginia law, Ebbin said, the transaction proved "as easy as buying a candy bar.")

The duo will be introducing legislation they term "sensible" gun legislation, including closing the so-called gun-show loophole that allowed Hope to purchase his gun without a background check, as well as tightening restrictions on the sale of weapons to those with mental illness and requiring lost or stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement.

"We think it's common sense," said Hope, but, when pressed, he said he wasn't banking on success in the General Assembly.

"It's going to be an uphill battle," the delegate acknowledged. "I'm hoping that the voters will weigh in. No responsible gun owner is afraid of a background check."

The headline-drawing Ebbin-Hope press conference drew some good-natured ribbing from their colleagues. "I feel safer know Del. Hope is armed," one of his legislative colleagues joked.

For the time being, Hope is keeping his new gun in his legislative office – the same building and same floor where, in 2006, another delegate (now retired) accidentally discharged his own weapon. The missile, irony of ironies, lodged in a bulletproof vest that legislator kept in his office.

Hope said he's most likely to turn the gun – paid for from his own money – over to law enforcement to be destroyed. Another irony: While a background check wasn't needed to purchase the gun, Hope said he will have to undergo one when he turns it into the police.