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Decision On Virginia's Gun Control Bill Postponed

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Uncertainty prevailed over one of the few gun-control measures that actually made it to the floor of the Virginia state Senate. Initially the bill would have imposed a $250 civil fine if any weapon that was lost or stolen was not reported. But the watered-down version was still met with opposition, in part, because of language that centered on the "assault weapons" debate.

The new version would require police to store the information in a national database if the owner reported it. But Sen. Tom Garrett objected to the new language. He believes the terms "handgun" and "assault firearm" that replaced the word "weapon," add to the stigmatization of firearms.

"There's a relatively popular .22 caliber target pistol — the Ruger 22/45, which comes with a threaded barrel that I don't think is an assault weapon, so there's real ambiguity within the definition," says Garrett. "The definition is not applicable in any way, shape, or form to a non-criminal offense environment, and I just think the bill is fatally flawed."

Bill sponsor Sen. Dave Marsden scrambled to assure its survival.

"The language that's in the bill at this point in time was placed in by the authors of the amendment," says Marsden. "It was not the original language of the bill that made any reference to assault weapons, and that was added by the committee, and I saw no need to change that."

The vote on the bill was postponed, giving supporters time to rework a strategy that gives it a better chance of passage.

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