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Radio forum features local House candidates

Radio forum features local House candidates

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Del. John M. O'Bannon III, R-Henrico, and his Democratic opponent, Tom Shields, split on gun issues tonight during a live public radio forum that featured local candidates for the House of Delegates.

Fourteen House candidates took part in the forum, which aired on WCVE ( 88. 9 FM) public radio. The candidates are seeking nine seats representing districts in Richmond and the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and Powhatan.

O'Bannon and Shields, who are facing off in the best-funded contest in the Richmond area, first differed on whether lawmakers should close the so-called "gun-show loophole." It enables a purchaser to buy a gun from an unlicensed vendor at a gun show without first undergoing a background check.

O'Bannon, a physician who is seeking his sixth two-year term in District 73, representing parts of Henrico and Richmond, has voted against efforts to close the "loophole."

"If I was in office I would go ahead and close that gun-show loophole," said Shields, who runs a leadership program at the University of Richmond.

"At the end of the day, it's a families issue," Shields said. "It's an issue about safety."

O'Bannon said the issue is important, but the General Assembly has not seen fit to change the law.

"There are adequate laws to protect the public," O'Bannon said. "It is a public safety issue. But this idea that if a family brings an antique pistol to a trading show, that you'd have to go through a federal gun show check to sell that gun to a neighbor or to a family member, I don't think is valid."

Shields noted that O'Bannon also has voted to allow holders of concealed weapons permits to carry the firearms into bars and restaurants, "where my children might be or your family might be."

O'Bannon said "the folks who have valid concealed-carry permits have been through a very rigorous process to get those permits."

Under current law, if the holder of a concealed weapons permit wants to go into an establishment that sells alcohol, he must leave the gun in the glove box of his car.

O'Bannon favored a bill that passed the House of Delegates in which the holder of a concealed weapons permit could bring the firearm into a bar or restaurant, but could not drink alcohol. The bill passed the General Assembly, but was vetoed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

"It seems to me like if those folks choose to carry that weapon to protect themselves -- and they do not drink alcohol . . . that would be a reasonable thing to do," O'Bannon said.

In another notable moment in the forum, Democrat James Towey, who is challenging Del. William R. Janis, R-Henrico, called for four-year term limits for members of the House of Delegates.

Towey said that in the current system, in which delegates are up for election every two years, incumbents always are running for office and spend too little time focusing on the job.

Janis was invited to take part in the forum, but was unable to attend. He has represented the district, serving parts of Henrico, Goochland and Louisa counties, since 2002.

Democrat Betsy Carr and Republican Ernesto V. Sampson, who are facing off in House District 69, also missed the forum. But, independent L. Shirley Harvey, who also is seeking the seat to represent parts of Richmond and Chesterfield, took part.

Through Sept. 30, Carr had raised more than $126,000, to $23,686 for Sampson, and $317 for Harvey, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan clearinghouse on money in Virginia politics.

A moderator asked Harvey how she can compete with her rivals.

"I'm just cost effective," Harvey said.

The League of Women Voters, Leadership Metro Richmond, the Partnership for Housing Affordability and Richmond First Club sponsored the forum, held at the studios of Commonwealth Public Broadcasting.

The forum will run multiple times on public access television channels from this weekend through Nov. 2, the day before the election.

The forum will air on Channel 95 for Comcast viewers in the city of Richmond, Henrico, Hanover, Powhatan, Goochland, Louisa counties.

Chesterfield Comcast subscribers may see the forum on Comcast Channel 17 and Verizon Channel 27.

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