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Delegates decry gun activism

The recent shootings in southwestern Virginia have sparked renewed calls for tighter gun control legislation in Virginia, including a statement by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and appearances on local and national media outlets.

“We cannot rest until we have done whatever it takes to rid our society of preventable gun violence that results in tragedies like the one we are enduring today,” McAuliffe said in a statement released after the shootings Wednesday.

McAuliffe, who supported gun control legislation in the General Assembly earlier in 2015, renewed calls for universal background checks, including closing the “gun show loophole” following the shootings.

“Why does a certain booth say no background checks?” McAuliffe said on a CNN program Thursday. “Who do you think is going to go to that booth? We should eliminate that.”

But Fauquier County delegates said McAuliffe is using the tragedy to advance his own political agenda.

Del. Michael Webert, R-18, who represents most of central and northern Fauquier County and has his district offices in Marshall, said that background checks wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy.

“Not only is it dishonest to say an expansion of the background check system would have prevented this act, it’s abhorrent to use this situation to press an agenda,” Webert said.

The delegate added that shooting suspect Vester Lee Flanagan did pass a background check and legally acquired his firearm.

“Unfortunately, gun control proponents are already exploiting this horrific act for political gain,” Webert said.

But according to the governor, the issue isn’t political but a matter of public safety.

“Keeping guns out of the hands of people who would use them to harm our family, friends and loved ones is not a political issue; it is a matter of ensuring that more people can come home safely at the end of the day,” McAuliffe said.

Del. Mark Cole, R-88, said he doesn’t favor restrictions on the rights of law abiding citizens and echoed Webert by questioning the governor’s motives.

“Nothing that I have heard the governor propose would have prevented this tragedy,” Cole said. “He appears to be using this murder to advance his big-government political agenda.”

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