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UVa and Creigh Deeds team up on gun control bill

The University of Virginia has helped craft a bill with state Sen. Creigh Deeds that would make carrying a firearm at state-owned colleges and universities illegal.

Deeds, a Democrat who represents the university in the upper house of the General Assembly, has directly tied the legislation to the Nov. 13 shooting at UVa that left student athletes Devin Chandler, D’Sean Perry and Lavel Davis Jr. dead and two others injured.

“In light of what happened at UVa and in light of the fact that they found all of those weapons in the alleged perpetrator’s room, UVa was trying to do an internal look at things and this idea basically bubbled up from within UVa,” Deeds, who introduced the bill Monday, told The Daily Progress on Tuesday.

Virginia State Police conducted a search of Christopher Darnell Jones Jr.’s dorm room on Grounds, according to a Nov. 14 search warrant obtained by The Daily Progress. An inventory of the findings included a semi-automatic rifle, a pistol, ammunition, a pair of Glock 9-millimeter magazines and a device used to make bullets fire faster.

UVa policy already bans firearms and other weapons from Grounds with exemptions for individuals who need weapons to perform their jobs including law enforcement officers, official military and university-contracted security.

However, university policies do not carry the same weight as

codified legislation, said Timothy Longo, chief of the UVa police department. Having such policies codified in state law, he told The Daily Progress in an email Tuesday, will make it easier for law enforcement to respond to firearm violations at Virginia’s public colleges and universities.

The bill would make carrying a firearm on school grounds a Class 1 misdemeanor and allow university law enforcement to obtain a search warrant when it believes firearms are being possessed illegally in university buildings.

“When such issues fall within the purview of our criminal statutes, the full range of Fourth Amendment satisfaction is available, and matters that could pose public safety risks are not left to administrators who are permitted to act pursuant to lesser constitutional standards, but do so with far less knowledge, training, and experience in matters relating to public safety,” Longo said.

Deeds’ bill will likely find support in the Democrat-controlled state Senate, but it will face an uphill battle with Republicans, who control the House of Delegates and the Executive Mansion.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has already said that he believes the commonwealth’s gun laws are stricter than several other states’.

“As the governor has said, Virginia has some of the toughest gun laws in America,” Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said in a statement to The Daily Progress on Tuesday.

Deeds acknowledged Virginia has strengthened its gun laws.

His recent legislation is actually an amendment to a 2021 law which prohibits firearms in buildings owned or leased by the commonwealth and any office where state employees regularly work.

“Several years ago, we changed the law to prohibit the possession of firearms in government-owned buildings, but we exempted college universities at the time,” Deeds said. “I think, at that time, people felt like the rules that most colleges and universities had would work and that was enough.”

The November shooting at UVa proved it was not, Deeds said.

Porter said that Youngkin preferred an approach that instead enhanced penalties for crimes already committed with a gun, not possession, as well as closing a behavioral health “gap.”

Deeds is personally and professionally familiar with the commonwealth’s gun policies and behavioral health gap.

In November of 2013, Deeds’ son, who suffered from bipolar disorder, stabbed his father 13 times with a knife before fatally shooting himself with a rifle. The elder Deeds’ face remains scarred from the attack.

At the time, Deeds’ son had been released from a public mental health facility because authorities said they could not find a bed for him within six hours, the amount allowed by law.

The next year, Deeds introduced and passed legislation that prevents state facilities from rejecting patients who have been sent there under an emergency custody court order.

Deeds has also sponsored legislation that would ban the new sale and possession of assault weapons manufactured after July 1 of this year and raise the age to buy an assault weapon manufactured before the bill’s effective date from 18 to 21.

By a 9-6 party line vote on Monday, the state Senate Judiciary Committee sent that legislation to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, where it will undergo a fiscal review before heading to the Senate floor. That legislation, perhaps more than any other gun control measure in the most recent session, has faced tremendous opposition from gun rights advocates.


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