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Poll finds most Virginians oppose changes in abortion, gun laws

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one-handgun-a-month law

Virginia voters, by wide margins, want to retain the state’s landmark one-handgun-a-month law.

Virginia voters, by wide margins, want to retain the state's landmark one-handgun-a-month law and oppose mandating that a woman receive an ultrasound before having an abortion, according to a new poll.

The results of the Christopher Newport University/Richmond Times-Dispatch survey put majorities at odds with legislation poised to pass in the General Assembly.

The survey indicates that the electorate is satisfied with the direction of the state and with the status quo on several key matters before the legislature. For example, majorities oppose requiring state workers to pay more toward their pensions and a measure defining life as beginning at conception.

Of the 1,018 registered Virginia voters polled Feb. 4-13, 66 percent want the one-gun-a-month restriction to remain and 31 percent favor repeal. A signature law from former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's administration, it was enacted in 1993 in response to interstate gun-trafficking problems on the East Coast.

Legislation to repeal the law has won approval in both chambers and is headed to Gov. Bob McDonnell's desk. He's expected to sign it.

Another measure that could reach the governor would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion. Of those polled, 55 percent say they oppose the requirement and 36 percent support it. The House and Senate have passed versions of the legislation.

"The governor will await the General Assembly's final action," said Tucker Martin, a spokesman for McDonnell. "If the bill passes he will review it, in its final form, at that time."

In the survey, 46 percent said the state is on the right track, versus 30 percent who think it's headed in the wrong direction.

That's in sharp contrast to their view of the federal government, with 23 percent of respondents saying it's headed in the right direction and 62 percent saying the wrong direction. McDonnell's approval rating sits at 59 percent.

On matters before the General Assembly, 51 percent of those surveyed think state employees should not be required to pay more toward their retirement, and 80 percent want colleges and universities to retain the power to ban guns on campus.

Efforts to change the campus rules seem unlikely to survive in the legislature at this point. Lawmakers are considering changes to pension benefits and retirement plans but rejected a proposal by McDonnell to increase state employees' contributions from 5 percent to 6 percent of pay.

The one-gun-a-month issue doesn't necessarily split along party lines, as some Republicans oppose repeal and some rural Democrats support it. The poll showed greater support among women for keeping the ban, with 75.3 percent preferring that it remain compared with 56.2 percent of men.

Patricia Lane, of Chester, said she is not a particularly close follower of gun-related issues, but that "my thoughts would be that one gun a month would be sufficient for anybody."

Sharon Dennison of Harrisonburg, who says her whole family hunts, backs repealing the law. "I feel it's in their right if they want to get one," she said, as long as guns are not in the wrong hands.

Roger Skeen, of Midlothian, also exercises his Second Amendment right but thinks one purchase a month is sufficient even for enthusiasts or people who use guns for sporting.

"I think that's a happy point with me in terms of what I'm comfortable with," he said.

As of Friday, the bill to repeal the one-gun-a-month law was headed to McDonnell, and once it's before him, he has seven days to act.

Bobby Coburn, of Midlothian, disagrees with the proposed ultrasound requirement before an abortion and has concerns about the potential impact on some women.

"I don't think poor women will have the opportunity to even have that done," he said. "I really think it would push women into places (without) perfect hygiene."

On another social issue, those surveyed oppose defining life beginning at conception 52-41 percent with 7 percent saying they didn't know or refusing to answer.

The House of Delegates has passed a measure sponsored by Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, that would impart the rights of "personhood" to a human embryo at the moment of conception. The measure could come before a Senate committee this week.

The poll also showed that 62 percent of respondents do not want to change voter-registration rules to give people the option of registering by party while 32 percent favor such a change.

Efforts to add party affiliation to registration appear dead for the year.

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Accused University of Virginia shooter Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. enrolled at the school in the fall of 2018, walking onto the football team. Four years later, he was arrested and charged in the on-campus shooting deaths of three football players.

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