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    Adopt school safety ideas, governor tells assembly

    RICHMOND – Gov. Bob McDonnell is urging state legislators to approve recommendations from his School and Campus Safety Task Force that would increase sentences for illegally buying guns, require mandatory lockdown drills at schools and establish more comprehensive suicide prevention programs.

    McDonnell sent the General Assembly a letter Friday outlining the panel’s initial recommendations.

    “I am pleased to report that the Taskforce has provided me with a number of initial recommendations that the members believe will help make our schools and campuses safer,” McDonnell wrote. “After reviewing their initial recommendations, I agree that these will help make our schools and campuses more secure.”

    Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman is a member of the taskforce.

    The letter highlighted 10 recommendations involving public safety (including restoring funding for school resource officers); two involving education (such as funding anti-bullying training); and three involving mental health (like expanding outpatient services).

    “Given the limited time left in session and considering that budget development is already well underway, I am providing you with my thoughts regarding which recommendations should be given your highest consideration and most immediate attention,” the governor said.

    McDonnell established the task force in the wake of December’s school shootings in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children.

    The task force issued its initial recommendations Thursday.

    Under current law, the illegal purchase or transport of firearms is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail. The task force’s proposal would make this violation a Class 6 felony punishable by up to five years in jail.

    The recommendations would also increase the punishment for “straw-man purchases” of firearms. That’s when someone legally buys a gun with the intent to sell it directly to someone who is ineligible to purchase a firearm. The law currently provides a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail for straw-man purchases.

    The task force proposed increasing the punishment for all straw-man transactions and mandating a punishment of 10 years in jail for the ineligible person if the transaction involves more than one firearm.

    For people who enter a school with a firearm or explosive device, the panel suggested that they be sentenced to up to 20 years in jail.

    No proposals limit any current laws of legal gun ownership.

    The task force also issued recommendations that require more security on the schools’ part. For instance, all schools would be required to conduct a lockdown drill within the first 20 days of the fall and spring semester.

    The task force also proposed that all schools institute a more in-depth mental health program and suicide prevention activities. Another proposal suggests that teachers undergo training and certification so they can recognize and treat mental or emotional distress among students or other faculty.

    The General Assembly has less than a month to turn these recommendations into law. The legislative session is scheduled to end on Feb. 23.

    The task force is expected to send the governor another set of recommendations by June 30.

    In his letter to the General Assembly, McDonnell said, “I am confident that by working together we will make our schools and campuses safer and improve upon the legal and budgetary framework necessary to help our first responders, education and mental health profession protect all Virginians.”

    Comments

    The outcome of this groups deliberations look like just what they are…a political response meant to change the subject and take the heat off groups like the NRA who persist in championing the rights of a few to threaten the rights and lives of the rest of us.

    Increase the penalties for straw-man purchases.  Sure, why not. Easy to do.  Of course, nothing’s being suggested to stem the tide of straw-man purchases.  Common sense suggestions like requiring more data on purchases made at gun shows.  Nope, not a peep on that.

    I like to think Sheriff Chapman tried to do the right thing but this group shows no evidence of trying to actually fix the problems we see with easy-to-get guns and mainstreaming of our mentally ill (a legacy of Ronald Reagan when you look into it).

    One hopes Richmond will ignore these recommendations and will instead insist on something a bit more meaningful.  I won’t hold my breath as I realize the GOP in Richmond is spending $17,000 of tax payer’s money to study whether it makes sense to print monopoly money here in Virginia.

    How much longer do we have to put up with McDonnell?

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