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Gun Control Proposals Expose Political Divide In Virginia

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Efforts to increase regulations on the sale of firearms in Virginia, including the closing of the gun show loophole, have met resistance.
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Efforts to increase regulations on the sale of firearms in Virginia, including the closing of the gun show loophole, have met resistance.

Legislators in Richmond are considering a number of gun-related efforts in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Conn. Many of those efforts face strong opposition from more conservative parts of the state.

Arlington Del. Patrick Hope wants to close the gun show loophole.

"You can't have nearly half of all gun sales in Virginia subject to background checks, and the other half absent any regulation," Hope says. "And so the laws as we currently have them are like Swiss cheese."

That cheese may melt in the coming weeks, as the session heats up with strong opposition to any gun control measures in Southside Virginia.

University Center for Politics analyst Kyle Kondik says the split reveals and important regional divisions in the General Assembly.

"There's an urban-rural kind of disconnect about gun rights and gun-control issues, and that sort of split sort of defines politics in Virginia," Kondik says.

Hope acknowledges that his effort will receive hefty opposition. But, he says, it's worth it.

"This goes beyond just the gun show loophole," Hope says. "This really does get to every private transaction."

All the more reason to oppose the bill, says Virginia Citizens Defense League president Phillip Van Cleave. He says background checks don't make anyone any safer, and he'd like to see the practice of requiring background checks for gun sales abolished.

"I certainly don't want to see more, and I'd be just as happy with less," Van Cleave says.

Other gun control efforts under consideration would force individuals to report stolen firearms within 24 hours of the theft and limit the number of bullets allowed in ammunition clips.

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