Calling guns in bars a "recipe for disaster," the
state's police chiefs have pleaded with Gov. Bob McDonnell to veto
legislation that would ease Virginia's concealed weapon laws.
Virginia Beach police Chief Jake Jacocks Jr. sent a letter to
McDonnell last week on behalf of the state association of chiefs
comparing the combination of firearms and alcohol with drinking and
"We can fully expect that at some point in the future a
disagreement that today would likely end up in a verbal
confrontation, or a bar fight, will inevitably end with gunfire if
you sign this legislation into law," Jacocks wrote.
SB334's requirement that anybody with a gun is prohibited from
drinking and could be charged with a misdemeanor is "absurd,"
Jacocks said, and can't be enforced.
On Tuesday, Jacocks got support from Virginia Beach Mayor Will
Sessoms, a McDonnell supporter and gun owner.
"Not only is it stupid," Sessoms said, "I think it could be a
But their efforts seem unlikely to sway McDonnell.
McDonnell will sign the bill, said Taylor Thornley, the
governor's spokeswoman. While McDonnell appreciates the work and
comments of the police chiefs, he will "continue to protect and
uphold the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,"
The bill deals only with concealed weapons; in Virginia it's
legal to carry a gun openly without a permit.
SB334 and its House counterpart, along with legislation that
allows gun owners without concealed-carry permits to store firearms
in locked vehicle compartments, were among the gun-friendly bills
approved by the General Assembly this year. The
Democratic-controlled Senate formed a special subcommittee late in
the session to kill several gun-rights bills, including a repeal of
the state's one-handgun-purchase-a-month limit.
The police chiefs association has opposed the guns in bars bill
in the past, but it also had a more sympathetic ear. Former
Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine twice vetoed such bills.
The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police didn't come out
strongly against the bills during the session because it was spread
too thin trying to preserve state funding for police departments,
said Dana Schrad, the organization's executive director.
"We didn't duck and cover on this one," Schrad said. "We had to
prioritize on budget issues."
The Virginia Sheriffs' Association, the other large
law-enforcement lobby in the General Assembly, did not take a stand
on the legislation, said John Jones, the organization's executive
"No, we're not going down that road," Jones said.
But association members recently did vote on a resolution
supporting Second Amendment rights, Jones said.
Jacocks and Schrad did acknowledge that the letter was a
"It was important to let him know directly how we felt about this
issue," Jacocks said.
If police across Virginia see an increase in gun violence at
bars, the association will come back and ask the General Assembly to
reconsider its decision, Schrad said.
Statistics on gun-related incidents at establishments with liquor
licenses were not available Tuesday.