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House Votes to Undo McAuliffe’s Ban on Guns in State Buildings

The Virginia House of Delegates voted 63-35 Thursday to prevent state agencies from banning guns in government buildings, a move aimed at reversing Gov. Terry McAuliffe's executive order last year that prohibited firearms in most state office buildings.

McAuliffe will veto the legislation, House Bill 1096, if it reaches the governor's desk, but its passage shows Republicans were willing to follow through on their opposition to the order he signed last October.

"There's a number of folks, some of my constituents, that feel when it comes to concealed carry, they should be able to concealed carry in state buildings," said Del. Michael J. Webert, R-Fauquier, the bill's patron. "Concealed carry holders statistically are a group of citizens that are incredibly law-abiding."

The governor's order has gone into effect, and state buildings now feature signs saying guns are not allowed.

After the vote, McAuliffe's office said the governor will veto the bill.

"He has an obligation to ensure the safety of his own employees and constituents when they are on state government property, and he is disappointed that lawmakers would attempt to thwart this reasonable policy that is clearly in the public interest," said McAuliffe spokeswoman Christina Nuckols.

McAuliffe's ban applies to offices of state agencies in Richmond as well as buildings throughout the state such as Department of Motor Vehicles facilities and Virginia Employment Commission centers. It does not apply to legislative offices and the state Capitol, which are under the purview of the General Assembly.

The legislation passed by the House would prohibit state agencies from adopting regulations on guns, with exceptions for agencies with security concerns, such as the state police and the Department of Corrections. The bill also does not apply to colleges and universities.

During floor debate earlier in the week, Del. Marcus B. Simon, D-Fairfax, said the bill was too broad and suggested it could prevent the Supreme Court of Virginia from having a no-weapons policy.

"It's ill-conceived and likely to have all kinds of dangerous unintended consequences," Simon said when asked for comment Thursday.

Simon said the lack of reaction to the concerns raised on the floor suggests Republicans don't expect the bill to become law.

The bill would have to win approval in the Senate before going to the governor.
Asked about the possibility of a veto by the governor, Webert said "that's part of the process."

"If he does, he does," Webert said. "I can ask him to change his mind."

By Graham Moomaw,

Portage Considers Change in City Ordinance Regarding Pneumatic Guns

PORTAGE, MI – Portage is considering amending its discharge of firearms ordinance to include pneumatic or air guns and be more in line with changes to the state law in 2015.

The proposed amendment updates the statutory definitions of firearm and pneumatic gun to be more consistent with legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder last year that made it easier to purchase and possess air guns in Michigan.

The state law basically brought Michigan in line with federal standards and made sure that air guns are not subject to the same regulations as handguns, rifles, shotguns and other firearms that use explosives to fire bullets.

The Portage City Council got its first look at the proposed city ordinance changes on Tuesday and after some discussion agreed to table a first reading until its Feb. 23 meeting.

City Manager Larry Shaffer and Public Safety Director Richard White have been asked to clarify some issues, particularly the definition of pneumatic guns.

Councilman Terry Urban had suggested that the city amend its discharge of firearms ordinance to be in line with the new state standards.

"The state law is more permissive and this new ordinance is more permissive than the old state law," Urban said, adding that he saw no reason to table the first reading. "I don't agree with the state legislative action...but they changed it for the state. Our ordinance needs to recognize that and be in compliance with that."

In a report to the council, Shaffer said the current city ordinance needs to be amended "to eliminate the existing vague and overly broad language and to reflect the update in the state legislation."

He said the main difference between the state law and city ordinance is that the state amendment "outlines a distinction between what are termed 'firearms' and 'pneumatic guns' and places certain restrictions on the regulation of pneumatic guns by local ordinance."

Shaffer said the proposed city ordinance amendment still regulates firearms discharge in Portage but also requires adult supervision for the possession or pneumatic guns by anyone under 16 years old, unless on private property with an adult's permission. It also prohibits "brandishing" firearms to induce fear or shooting in a heavily populated area, with stipulations.

Council members said that while the city amendment seemed to lack controversy, they did not have enough time to study it.

"Instead of passing an ordinance on the fly let's give police two weeks to study and clarify the language," said Councilman Jim Pearson, who said there seemed to be some confusion about what might constitute an air gun.

Air guns, such as those that shoot a pellet or BB and are often referred to as toy guns, must be sold with an orange safety tip. They have been used to teach gun safety and hunt small game, among other purposes.

Last year, the National Rifle Association backed the state law amendments. The NRA said the goal is "to relieve Michiganders, and those seeking to engage in interstate commerce with Michigan residents, from outdated and unduly burdensome restraints on the transfer, purchase and possession of most air guns."

The new state law package also defined "brandishing" and limited the ability of local governments to regulate air guns beyond state law.

By Tom Haroldson,

After 28 Years, Secret Service Posts Warning: No Guns in White House

WASHINGTON — The signs appeared at the White House around the time of a winter storm that closed down much of the federal government for three days last month: "WARNING: Weapons Prohibited."

Posted right outside guard shacks with metal detectors, the signs threaten fines and prison time for something that most White House visitors probably consider common sense: Don't bring a gun into the White House.

So why the signs?

"The signs were put up literally because we have to by law," said David Iacovetti, the deputy assistant director of public affairs for the U.S. Secret Service. "The only way we can search somebody and have those charges stick is have the sign posted."

That law is the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.

Neither the Secret Service nor the Justice Department could explain why it took 28 years to install the signs. But they said the lack of signage hasn't impacted their ability to arrest and convict people threatening the White House complex.

Under Section 930 of the federal criminal code, it's a federal Class A misdemeanor to bring a firearm or dangerous weapon into a federal facility, punishable by up to a year in prison. If you intend to commit a crime with that weapon, it becomes a Class E felony, with up to five years in prison.

But there's a catch. The same law requires that notice of the penalties "be posted conspicuously at each public entrance to each federal facility." Without the notice, a person can't be convicted.

Iacovetti said the Secret Service installed the signs last month on the advice of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which prosecutes federal crimes in the nation's capital.

U.S. Attorney spokesman Bill Miller said prosecutors have had occasional discussions with various law enforcement agencies about the sign requirement over the years, but that he wasn't aware of any specific incident that triggered the new signs at the White House.

Despite the number of prominent federal buildings in the District of Columbia, prosecution under Section 930 is rare. A USA TODAY analysis of federal court data found only one case since 1995 where federal prosecutors in Washington enforced the law: James Von Brunn, the 2009 Holocaust Museum shooter who was also charged with murder.

Across the river in the Northern District of Virginia, there have been at least 52 cases over the past decade.

But federal prosecutors say the inability to charge people under Section 930 hasn't been a problem because of the District of Columbia's strict gun laws. The local law, which prohibits carrying a pistol without a license, also carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

"Our office is unique in that we prosecute both local as well as federal offenses, which gives us this option," Miller said.

It also allows the Secret Service to arrest people for carrying weapons even before they get into the White House grounds. Recent arrests under that law include April Debois, a 24-year-old Michigan woman arrested by the Secret Service near the White House in 2014, and Joshua Wheeler, a 25-year-old intern caught trying to bring a gun into a congressional office building last year.

Debois pleaded guilty last week, and was sentenced to time served: Six days in jail.

The 2014 White House fence-jumper, Omar Gonzalez, was charged with a separate offense: entering a restricted building or grounds with a dangerous weapon (he was carrying a knife). That offense is punishable by up to 10 years; Gonzalez was sentenced to 17 months.

That law applies specifically to the White House, but it wouldn't apply to someone who carried a weapon into the White House after being invited in.

By Gregory Korte, USA Today