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Gun legislation awaiting Kaine's signature

Measures deal with two major changes to Virginia law affecting holders of concealed carry permits

By Garren Shipley -- Daily Staff Writer

Two major pieces of legislation dealing with concealed handguns are headed to Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's desk.

One of the two is headed toward a likely veto.

The Virginia General Assembly has approved two major changes to state law in the area of concealed carry permits in recent days -- one would put a statewide list of permit holders off limits, while another would allow holders to carry their guns in restaurants where alcohol is served, provided they don't drink.

Existing law permits weapons to be carried openly and the limited consumption of alcohol by armed patrons.

Speaking on WRVA Richmond's "Ask the Governor" program on Thursday, Kaine said he would likely veto the measure over public safety concerns.

"I vetoed that bill last year," he said, noting that this year's effort, Senate Bill 1035, looks almost identical.

"If it is, I'm going to veto it," he said. Supporters in the state Senate are several votes short of being able to override a veto.

The other bill, House Bill 2144, by Del. David Nutter, R-Christiansburg, would put the state police database on permit holders off limits to all but law enforcement officers.

The bill is a direct reaction to the 2007 publication of the entire statewide database of concealed carry permit holders by The Roanoke Times as part of a story about open records laws.

Newspapers in Tennessee and Ohio followed suit not long after, leading lawmakers in those states to enact to significant restrictions on access to permit data in those states.

Virginia lawmakers tried to restrict the information last year, but could not reach an agreement on how best to balance open records with privacy concerns.

There was no such problem this year, though, as the bill sailed through both the House and Senate with no opposition.

Had the Times not published the database, there would have been no move to place it off limits.

"Originally I don't think too many people had a problem with concealed carry permit information being available for public consumption, but the abuse of this information by The Roanoke Times called attention to the fact that irresponsible dissemination of this information could compromise the safety of law-abiding citizens," said Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, who voted for the bill. "If the bill becomes law, information of this kind will no longer be available in a comprehensive list from the state police."

The bill does not go as far as legislation in other states, though. The records will still be open to public inspection at local courthouses.

But collecting the same type of database compiled by the Virginia State Police would take a trip to the courthouses in all of Virginia's 134 county-level jurisdictions.

About 160,000 people have active permits in the state, according to the Virginia State Police. That number was up more than 30,000 in 2008 from the previous year.

In the Northern Shenandoah Valley, permits have been issued to about 2.5 percent of the population in most counties.

Contact Garren Shipley at gshipley@nvdaily.com

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