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Virginia shores up gun legislation, as states adopt varied measures

In absence of any national consensus on gun legislation, states are increasingly making up their own rules. That variation has sparked some concerns in Virginia.

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    Craig Van Cura practices shooting his semi-automatic handgun at targets at the Ferry Brook Range, on January 26, 2013 in Keene, N. H. Mr. Van Cura has been shooting guns for four years. He carries his gun with him for self defense, but has never had to use it for that purpose.
    Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File
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Beginning Feb. 1, Virginia will no longer recognize concealed handgun permits from more than two dozen states.

The move follows an audit conducted by the attorney general’s office and the Virginia State Police pursuant to the state criminal code, which requires both agencies to determine whether reciprocating states “meet the requirements and qualifications” for recognition of their concealed handgun permits.

After research, the audit determined that the requirements for gaining a concealed handgun permit in those states were not sufficient to keep a person from obtaining a permit who would otherwise be ineligible to lawfully conceal handguns in Virginia, including fugitives, convicted stalkers, and drug dealers.

"To ensure Virginia's law and safety standards for concealed handgun permits are applied evenly, consistently, and fairly, I have recommended the State Police terminate the reciprocity agreements with 25 states whose laws are not adequate to prevent issuance of a concealed handgun permit to individuals that Virginia would disqualify,” Attorney General Mark Herring said  in a statement.

“The State Police has accepted that recommendation and has begun sending letters to the 25 states informing them that as of February 1, their permits will no longer be recognized by Virginia.”

"This is a commonsense step that can help make Virginians and our law enforcement officers safer by ensuring that our concealed carry laws and safety standards apply to everyone in Virginia, whether they are a resident or a visitor,” he added.

In the wake of mass shootings, the White House has called for stricter gun control laws which Congress has voted against.

However, despite the congressional gridlock, states and municipalities have taken the matter in their own hands and have passed gun control measures and there's been a push to explore what executive actions could also be taken.

The impact on gun violence will depend on how active states are, says David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center in Boston. But any kind of state effort will be helpful, he suggests.

"If you're in a boat and there are 80 places with small leaks, will clogging up a few leaks matter?" he asks. "I think so. And the more leaks you clog up, the better."

"We're going to have lots of guns in the United States, so let's figure out how to live with them better," he adds.

Last month a study by gun-control advocacy organization Everytown showed that states that require background checks prior to handgun purchases experience significantly fewer mass shootings than other states.

This article contains material from The Associated Press.

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