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Think tank wants Va.’s new gun enforcement implemented across U.S.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe signs the executive order banning the open carry of guns in state executive branch buildings, and promised that a new task force would step up enforcement of existing laws and recommend further executive actions. (WTOP/Max Smith)

WASHINGTON — A liberal think tank is working to get more governors, attorneys general and other state leaders to follow Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in taking executive actions he says will help prevent gun violence.

The Center for American Progress is set to take its research and ideas to leaders in several states, including Maryland, where executive or other actions beyond new laws could address shootings, says the group’s vice president of guns and crime policy Chelsea Parsons.

“After Sandy Hook, you saw Gov. Milloy in Connecticut do a number of these things, you’ve seen this kind of leadership from Gov. Cuomo in New York and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in New York. I think that there is leadership in Maryland as well that will be interested in working on a number of these issues, so we think there is a substantial opportunity,” Parsons says.

In Virginia, McAuliffe says he acted because the Republican-led legislature does not believe it’s a good idea to make gun laws stricter.

On Thursday, the governor banned the open carry of guns in state executive branch buildings, and promised that a new task force would step up enforcement of existing laws and recommend further executive actions. McAuliffe also said prosecutors should ask judges to seize the guns of more domestic abusers.

McAuliffe also ordered the regulatory process to begin to ban concealed carry of guns in the executive branch office buildings, including Department of Motor Vehicle offices. Virginia State Police plan to set up a new gun crime tip line and do more to trace guns involved in crimes in the state.

In Maryland, while Republican Gov. Larry Hogan may not be interested in changes, many state and local leaders are Democrats who may be more open to the actions.

“We’re looking at ideas for executives at all levels, so there are things that governors can do, there are things that attorneys general can do, there are things that leaders in law enforcement and state police can do, leaders in public health, and we’re looking for ways that executives at any level can get involved in this issue,” Parsons says.

Virginia Republicans have questioned whether many of McAuliffe’s moves will be effective, and have asked whether law enforcement really needs the extra push to enforce existing laws.

“We are confident that our local law enforcement officers and Commonwealth’s Attorneys are enforcing all of Virginia’s laws to their full extent. The governor and attorney general should take extra care before interfering with their work,” House Majority Leader Kirk Cox said in a statement.

On Friday, National Rifle Association spokesman Lars Dalseide echoed that doubt.

“The governor doesn’t need an executive order to enforce laws that are already on the books, it’s what the NRA has been calling for all along — for officials to enforce the existing regulations and prosecute the offenders to the full extent of the law,” he says.

Dalseide and Republican leaders in the House of Delegates say the focus should instead be on mental health.

Virginia Republicans say they will review McAuliffe’s actions during the General Assembly session this winter.

Republicans are expected to maintain a heavy advantage in the House of Delegates, but control of the Senate depends on who wins a handful of races across the state Nov. 3.

Editor’s Note: The spelling of Lars Dalseide’s name has been corrected.

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