McAuliffe signs bill that toughens penalties for celebratory gunfire - Roanoke Times: Virginia

McAuliffe signs bill that toughens penalties for celebratory gunfire

A person convicted under the new law can be sentenced for up to five years in prison.

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Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 10:06 pm

RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed legislation that makes a conviction for celebratory gunfire in which a person is wounded a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

SB 65, sponsored by Sen. Henry Marsh, D-Richmond, is also known as “Brendon’s Law,” named after 7-year-old Brendon Mackey of Chesterfield County. He was killed by a falling bullet while walking with his father at a fireworks show July 4.

The shooter has not been identified.

“I don’t know if I am ever going to have closure, but I definitely think that this is the right step that we need to take to prevent something like that from happening,” Brendon’s mother, Marie Harris, said in a phone interview Thursday.

Andrew Goddard, chairman of the National Gun Victims Action Council, said he hopes the legislation provides comfort to Brendon’s family.

“Their loss has brought the issue of celebratory gunfire to the attention of the wider public,” Goddard said. “Celebratory gunfire is an incredibly stupid and irresponsible act that needs to become socially unacceptable in the future.”

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said Thursday that the governor supports the legislation as a “common-sense measure to keep Virginians safe.”

The full bill, which passed the Senate 24-15, was later gutted by a House criminal laws subcommittee, which stripped it of two key provisions. The first provision would have made death resulting from celebratory gunfire a Class 5 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and the second would have made celebratory gunfire resulting in no death or injury a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County, a member of the panel, had argued that the first provision is already a felony.

“I just wish that we had been able to get a better, more explicit and easier-to-understand bill to the governor,” said Goddard, who had lobbied the General Assembly to pass a measure that included the original provisions.

The Senate measure is identical to HB 810, sponsored by Del. Betsy Carr, D-Richmond, which McAuliffe has yet to sign.

“He is in the process of reviewing and signing hundreds of bills. These two came in at different times, but he will sign the House version before the [Monday] deadline,” Coy said

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