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Gun Regulations Take Legislative Spotlight In Virginia After Shooting

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The tragic killing of 27 in Newtown, Conn. has put guns front and center in the next legislative center in Virginia.
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The tragic killing of 27 in Newtown, Conn. has put guns front and center in the next legislative center in Virginia.

Legislators in Virginia are gearing up for the upcoming session of the General Assembly. Many are expecting the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. to shape priorities of the session, with both sides of the gun debate galvanized by the tragedy.

Last year, the General Assembly overturned a longstanding ban preventing individuals from purchasing one handgun a month. Now, in the wake of the mass shootings in Connecticut, legislators across Virginia are predicting a number of potential bills.

Some would limit access to guns, creating a maximum number of bullets in a clip, for example, or require stolen guns to be reported within 24 hours.

Others would make guns more available, such as a bill allowing concealed weapons on college campus and even in airports.

State Senator Adam Ebbin is a Democrat who supports new restrictions.

"It's really hard to predict what the thinking is of some colleagues who would like to see a more heavily-armed society," Ebbin says. "It's troubling, but not surprising."

Republican Dave Albo says he isn't sure that any legislation could have foreseen what happened in Connecticut.

"Just because you pass a law doesn't mean you're going to stop it," Albo says. "I mean, there's millions and millions and millions of guns in America. So when somebody wants to pass a law that says no one can have a gun, does any rational person think that would work?"

Albo says the debate about guns is only part of the story.

"To me, the one common problem in most of these cases you ve seen recently, which is the guy who shot the congresswoman, the guy who was in the movie theater, the guy in Connecticut, was that they all had severe mental health problems," Albo says.

One potential solution, Albo says, is looking at returning to a model of inpatient treatment rather than mainstreaming people with mental health problems.

With the tragedy in Connecticut so fresh, legislators on both sides of the gun debate say it's too soon to know how the issue will play out in Richmond next month.

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