Senate committee changes vote to protect women over guns

state-capitol2In a dramatic turn of events, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 10-4 today to approve SB 943, a bill that would prohibit those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, sexual battery, and stalking from purchasing and possessing firearms.

The vote comes just two days after the committee initially rejected the bill following a controversial hearing in which Chairman Tommy Norment (R-3rd) appeared to announce the bill had been approved.  The bill was later listed as defeated by a 10-5 vote in Virginia’s Legislative Information System.

The controversy was reported by media outlets including the Roanoke Times, Washington Post, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginian-Pilot and WUSA.  Simultaneously, gun violence prevention advocates, including Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws (VRGL), and domestic violence prevention groups drove calls to members of the committee expressing their displeasure with Monday’s failed vote.  After taking note of this reaction, the committee elected to take up SB 943 again today.

The only Senators on the Courts of Justice committee to vote against SB 943 were Ben Chafin (R-38th), Bryce Reeves (R-17th), Thomas Garrett (R-22nd) and Mark Obenshain (R-26th).

The bill was sponsored by Senator Barbara Favola (D-31st) and supported by the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Alliance.

The committee heard emotional testimony on Monday from domestic violence survivors, including Lisette Johnson, who was shot five times by her husband in Chesterfield County in 2009.

“I’m very encouraged to see bipartisan support to protect women from armed abusers and I want to thank all the members on the Courts of Justice committee who voted for this life-saving legislation,” said Lori Haas, the Virginia State Director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and VRGL.  “Companion legislation from Del. Kathleen Murphy is coming up tomorrowin a House Militia, Police and Public Safety subcommittee and we’re hoping to see same result.”

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