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House panel votes against bill to ban bump stocks in Virginia
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House panel votes against bill to ban bump stocks in Virginia

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A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee voted down a bill to ban bump stocks Thursday, despite hearing emotional testimony from a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people last year.

The House Militia, Police and Public Safety subcommittee stopped the bill on a 4-2 party-line vote.

The legislation, sponsored by Del. Mark H. Levine, D-Alexandria, would have banned the rapid-fire gun modifications like the ones the Las Vegas shooter used to spray concertgoers with bullets from a hotel window.

Cortney Carroll, 40, of Henrico County, fought through tears as she described her experience dodging machine-gun-like fire at the Oct. 1 country music concert targeted by the shooter. Describing herself as a Republican and someone who’s not anti-gun, Carroll said a bump stock ban would not have stopped the shooting, but it would’ve given people “time to run and take cover.”

“I can’t even tell you the horror of that night,” Carroll said.

Del. Thomas C. Wright Jr., R-Lunenburg, thanked Carroll for her testimony and held a moment of silence for the victims. But he said evil can move people to use anything to cause mayhem, “whether they use trucks, cars, box cutters, knives or whatever.”

“Regardless of what laws we pass, until the evil in men’s hearts change, it’s not going to solve the problem,” Wright said.

Several national Republican figures and 2017 Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie have voiced support for banning bump stocks, leading some observers to wonder whether it would be the rare gun control measure to pass the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

A similar bump stock ban had already passed a Senate committee, but the action in the House suggests the legislation won’t pass this year.

Gun control advocates urged the House subcommittee to pass the ban, saying there was little justification under the Second Amendment for devices that mimic banned automatic firearms. Pro-gun representatives from the National Rifle Association and the Virginia Citizens Defense League argued that the state should not act because the federal government is already reviewing bump stocks.

The subcommittee also killed several bills to establish universal background checks on gun purchases, a top priority of Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration.

Levine told the panel that voting against universal background checks is “voting to give guns to gang members” and terrorists.

Del. Nicholas J. Freitas, R-Culpeper, said he didn’t appreciate the comment, adding that, as a former Green Beret, he knows more about fighting terrorists than “a radio personality.”

Levine, a lawyer and broadcast political commentator, said he “meant no offense.”

“I am passionate about this issue,” Levine said.

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