Delegate Mark Keam - Virginia's 35th House District

Virginia-Pilot reports on Delegate Keam's Militia Committee Work

Bill targeting armed drinkers dies in House panel


A unanimous stamp of approval from the state Senate wasn't enough to save a legislative attempt to keep loaded guns out of the hands of intoxicated people.

Sen. Donald McEachin's bill, SB1395, had been passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate 40-0.

But it died at the hands of four Republican delegates Thursday, probably the last gun-control measure to be considered by the 2011 General Assembly.

The measure would have made it a misdemeanor for someone under the influence of alcohol to have a loaded firearm in a public place. The bill also would have made it a Class 2 misdemeanor, a lesser offense, for a person carrying a loaded firearm to consume an alcoholic beverage in a restaurant or club.

McEachin's bill was prompted by the so-called "guns in bars" law passed by the Assembly last year, which allows concealed-weapon permit holders to carry their guns into restaurants and bars but prohibits them from consuming alcohol.

That left what McEachin, D-Richmond, considered a large loophole: Patrons who carry weapons openly can drink all they want.

His bill drew the usual reactions in the Assembly's perennial gun debates: support from gun-control advocates and opposition from gun-rights groups.

There was little debate from the subcommittee of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee that considered the measure. Most of the discussion centered on technical issues.

The bill died when Del. Mark Keam of Fairfax County, the only Democrat on the five-member panel, failed to get a second for his motion to advance it.

The same panel had rejected a similar measure last week from Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond.

McEachin said after the vote he had hoped the Senate's unanimity on the issue would make a difference.

"People ought not to be handling firearms while drinking," he said. "It seems that would be something we all could agree on."

Bill Sizemore, (804) 697-1560,

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