Virginia guns laws are despised by officials up and down the east coast who say the lose laws bleed guns onto their crime-ridden streets.
This Supreme Court is viewed as conservative, so many court watchers were surprised when it ruled people can’t buy firearms for others without declaring the gun isn’t for them. The case hinged on a former Virginia police officer who bought a handgun for his uncle but without disclosing the gun was being bought for someone else. Virginia Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith opposes efforts to tighten the nation’s gun laws, but he says the Court got it right.
"They were just stating whether the law was constitutional or not. I think they're right it is constitutional. That doesn't mean it's good law."
Griffith now wants Congress to revisit the law.
"And what ought to happen is there ought to be an affirmative defense. I was buying the gun for someone else, but that person was also legal and I knew that they were legal. I think that ought to be an affirmative defense for the charge. An affirmative defense shifts the burden from the government to the defendant."
Griffith says people should be allowed to buy guns for people they can vouch for.
"Because it was the gentleman’s uncle, he knew him well he knew his background well, he could state unequivocally that that was the case. He shouldn't have filled out the form improperly and it's a tragic situation, but I believe that the underlying law probably is constitutional."
Northern Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran has been fighting for tougher gun laws for decades. He says the Supreme Court made a common sense ruling. Moran also says it’s absurd for people to give guns away as presents.
“Why do you give an AK 47 or even any fire arm as a gift. I mean gosh if you want a gun then people are going to go out and buy one.”
“In southwest Virginia I understand that my, my friend Mr. Moran lives in a, a different climate, but yeah.”
That’s Congressman Griffith again. He says Moran and other supporters of gun-control are out of touch with his voters and millions of others across the nation who regularly give firearms away as gifts.
“And that happens all the time and you know it’s kind of like saying you got a discount at Macy’s, because a friend of yours works there and they can’t get you the discount.”
But Moran says the problem goes beyond gifts; he says Virginia laws make it easy for straw purchasers to support gangs and drug cartels in other cities.
“A lot in Virginia and North Carolina it ends up in the streets of Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York.”
Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly says in 2012 lawmakers in Richmond set the state back when they voted to repeal the state’s law that limited people to buying just one gun a month.
“For two decades it worked and seriously drying up weapons along the east coast and, and absolutely removing Virginia as the main source of those illicit weapons.”
Connolly says former Republican Governor Bob McDonnell led the commonwealth down a dangerous path.
"So it was a very cynical and dangerous thing for the Republican majority and the general assembly of
Virginia to repeal that law and it has real consequences in real lives."
That’s why Connolly is praising the High Court. He says while it’s a small step, the ruling provides another important tool in the fight to curb gun violence.
"Allowing the regulation of straw gun purchases in this ruling, as this ruling does it strengthens the hand of local law enforcement and local government and it's a welcomed development."
With Congress divided gun-control advocates are unlikely to make any gains in their efforts in the Capitol, but the Supreme Court just gave them a little bit more hope.