Virginia governor tightens gun control rules, creates task force

Virginia governor tightens gun control rules, creates task force

© Mike Theiler / Reuters

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) - Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe ordered tighter gun control measures in Virginia on Thursday that included creation of a gun crimes task force.

McAuliffe's executive order comes as Democratic presidential candidates are making gun control a major campaign theme following a rash of high-profile mass shootings.

McAuliffe is heading Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in Virginia, which is the home of the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby, and reducing gun violence has been a focus of his administration.

In signing the order, McAuliffe cited the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech University in which 32 people were killed and the on-air killings in August of two Roanoke television journalists.

"Our commonwealth has taken great steps to limit access to guns to those who have mental health issues, previous felony convictions, or a current protective order. But, as events around our nation and Virginia’s own recent history show, more must be done,” McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement.

The gun crimes task force will be made up of state and local prosecutors and law enforcement personnel. They will be charged with assuring that only licensed dealers sell firearms and with the enforcement of laws limiting gun ownership.

A tip line will be set up for reporting illegal gun activity. State police also will trace the origin of guns used in a crime and openly carrying of firearms in most state office buildings is banned, except for authorized personnel.

In 2014, firearm sales in Virginia totaled 405,838, the first drop in sales in four years, according to Virginia State Police figures. A record was set in 2013 with 479,253 transactions.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson)