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Virginia House Passes 'Straw Purchase' Bill For Tighter Gun Laws

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Virginia House lawmakers passed a bill that would make it tougher to obtain a firearm through straw purchasers.
Prince George's County Police Department
Virginia House lawmakers passed a bill that would make it tougher to obtain a firearm through straw purchasers.

Department of Justice figures suggest that about 40 percent of all firearms used in crimes are obtained via straw purchases — that's when the actual buyer of a firearm can't pass the required federal background check, so someone else makes the purchase.

Virginia gun rights advocates and one state lawmaker have sponsored a "straw purchase" bill that has now passed both houses of the General Assembly.

Sen. Tom Garrett says in most recent mass shootings, the shooter had some documented level of instability prior to the incident. In the case of William Spengler, who set his New York house ablaze so that he could target firefighters, he was already prohibited from owning a firearm, but someone acquired a weapon for him.

While Garrett says this incident has escalated the argument about gun control, he also says there's been too much focus on the inanimate object and not on the people responsible for senseless acts of violence.

"This will hopefully help to send the message that we take this seriously that there's real time coming if you buy a gun for someone that you know is prohibited by law from having that gun, and also will help to get people who do this off the streets," says Garrett.

A straw purchase of a firearm is already a felony in Virginia, but this law stiffens the penalties and imposes mandatory minimum sentences for both the person who obtains the weapon and the recipient. The bill now heads to the governor.

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