Governor vetoes guns in cars bill

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By Landmark News Service

RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s first use of the veto pen — on a gun rights bill he previously sought to weaken with an amendment — is more symbolic than substantive.
While its effect doesn’t change the law on storing guns inside a private vehicle, it’s a clear reminder to McAuliffe’s gun control base that he’s in their corner.
He vetoed Del. Ben Cline’s HB962, intended to clarify that gun owners without concealed handgun permits can keep the weapons in their vehicles if they’re secured in compartments that aren’t locked. McAuliffe considers that broadened definition a public safety risk.
An amendment from McAuliffe had required storage of weapons in locked containers but was rejected by the Republican-run House of Delegates earlier this month. Cline (R-Rockbridge County) has said the legislation is necessary to make it clear that a storage container needn’t be locked to comply with the law.
McAuliffe’s veto is the final action on Cline’s bill this year, legislative officials said.
Ordinarily, bills vetoed or amended by a governor go back to the General Assembly for consideration, typically in April. Because the legislature rejected McAuliffe’s amendment, however, members don’t get a chance to respond to his veto.
Normally, overriding a veto takes a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate — Cline’s bill passed each by wide margins — and failure to reach that threshold in either chamber means the veto stands.
Cline’s goal was to update the “guns in cars” law from 2010, which created an exemption to Virginia’s policy on concealed handgun permits to allow owners to store them in closed compartments inside private vehicles.
That law initially specified that the container had to be locked. But an amendment from Gov. Bob McDonnell to one of the “guns in cars” bills softened its language so the compartment only had to be “secured.”
McDonnell didn’t seek to amend a companion bill, leaving the “locked” wording intact.
Gun rights advocates who perceive McAuliffe as unfriendly to their cause bristled at his proposed alteration to Cline’s bill earlier this month.
“The amendment is clearly meant to poke gun owners in the eye! Not a good way for McAuliffe to start off his tenure as Governor, but not unexpected either,” the Virginia Citizens Defense League wrote in a March 4 email to members.
McAuliffe’s gubernatorial campaign in October received roughly $1.75 million in advertising support from Independence USA PAC, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in state politics.
The political committee started by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent the money on television advertising critical of former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s stance on criminal background checks before certain gun purchases.
“I am disappointed that Governor McAuliffe’s first use of the veto is in opposition to a bill defending the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Virginians,” Cline said in a statement. “The Governor is clearly listening to his friends in the gun control lobby instead of the majority of Virginians who support the Second Amendment.”