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Prince William’s Stewart, Gun Dealers say Politicians Grandstanding on Gun Issue


DALE CITY, Va. — As the call for gun buybacks gets louder, Prince William County’s leader said politicians should stop making a tragedy in Connecticut a political issue.

To the north, Fairfax County leaders are talking about a gun buyback program to help to get firearms off streets. One county leader suggested holding a buyback event annually.

Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-Fairfax, Prince William, also called for a gun buyback last month following the death of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December.

But don’t look for any kind of gun buyback program in Prince William County. The police department has never held such an event, and Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart said they are a waste of time.

“There is no evidence, that I’ve seen, that gun buybacks work. This is a local issue, [Congressman Connolly] ought to stay out of it, and he should stop politicizing the tragedy in Connecticut,” said Stewart.

Also in December, Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell on WTOP Radio voiced his support for arming staff members inside school buildings.

Stewart, once more, cried foul.

“The governor should keep his fingers out of it too… all of these jerks, from the state to the federal level, who are trying to politicize the tragedy…it just pisses me off,” said Stewart, who is running to be the state’s next Lt. Governor. 

Reversal of position

Stewart had a change of heart when it comes to police officers in Prince William County schools. On Tuesday, Stewart said he will withdraw his proposal to cut the school resource officer program. Initially, Stewart saw the move as a cost-effective move to put more officers on patrol. Now he wants to expand the program.

“The county staff and school staff, I would like to direct that you get together for a top-down review of school security in the county and look at recommendations on how we can cooperate and improve,” said Stewart at a meeting of the Board of County Supervisors.

Stewart, who lives in Woodbridge, has two children in Prince William County Public Schools and says he feels they are safe there.

Gun owners fear sales will be limited 

Those who do not feel safe in the post Sandy Hook climate: gun owners who feel the government will pass new legislation to limit or stop the sale of semi-automatic handguns, rifles, and shotguns.

In Dale City this weekend, thousands came to a gun show at the VFW Post 1503 on Minnieville Road. Small firearms and accessories dealers set up tables and displayed their wares. Many said there has been a run on firearms in recent weeks.

“What happened at Sandy Hook is a tragedy. No one can dispute that, but we have a lot of people in Washington trying to politicize this issue and many don’t know what they are talking about,” said James Stoll, a small firearms dealer from Stafford.

Handguns, shotguns, rifles, and ammunition are all flying off the shelves and it’s becoming harder to replenish the inventory. Many dealers fear a panel in Washington led by Vice-President Joe Biden will recommend limiting the sale of firearms, though Stroll said he expects no major gun law changes from state lawmakers in Richmond, as Virginia is a “firearm friendly state,” said Stroll.

Buying for protection

Bob Watson, of Woodbridge, leads a firearms safety training certified by the National Rifle Association. About 50 percent of his customers are women, a changing trend in his customer base.

“It’s good to see more and more people come to us to learn that this piece of equipment they’ve purchased has a proper operation and storage procedures,” said Watson.

He doesn’t know why more of his customers are female, but people in their 40s and 50s are buying weapons to protect their families, and those in their 60s are buying guns because many feel vulnerable, Watson said.

Before heading to the shooting range for the day-long training, a brief kum-ba-ya session where people talk about why they purchased a firearm and where they plan to use it.

Gun purchase

When it comes to purchasing a gun, the first part of the transaction is about conversation. Small gun dealers like Stroll are the last in line to prevent firearms from getting into the wrong hands. Before the sale, he talks with his customers about what type of gun they are interested in, and can usually get other background information like job, recreation interests, and past gun purchase information.

“When I do sit with a customer, it can seem like I’m chatting them up. It’s not a chat, it’s an interrogation,” said Stroll.

Everyone who purchases a gun in Virginia is entered into the state police V Check system at the point of sale, after they fill out federal and state forms. A photo ID (in most cases a Virginia’s driver’s license) and a second form of ID that mirrors the information on the photo ID are required at the time of sale.

The V Check system bills itself as one of the most complete records repositories in the nation capable of checking criminal histories and rendering immediate information about who has legal access to firearms.

Stroll once red flagged a customer after feeling uncomfortable about a potential sale — a Marine sergeant whom appeared unfamiliar with the $3,000 in guns that he wanted to purchase from him. But a check of the V Check database cleared the Marine, and Stroll’s suspicion proved to be unfounded.

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