Firearms, algae on delegate’s bill list

Firing off a retort to Democratic legislators who introduced gun control bills, Republican Delegate John McGuire filed three bills in the General Assembly to make it easier to obtain and use guns.

The bills, which will be considered by McGuire’s colleagues during the session that started Jan. 8, include a proposal to eliminate the need for a concealed carry permit for citizens who already have passed a background check to possess a handgun.

“This increases the number of law-abiding, responsibly armed citizens in public places,” said McGuire, whose 56th district includes all of Louisa County.

“Sixteen other states have passed Constitutional Carry laws, because they realize that during the unthinkable, seconds matter – and innocent bystanders quickly become the first line of defense.”

In the same vein, McGuire introduced a bill to allow people to carry guns in churches. To bolster his argument, the delegate pointed to a Dec. 29, 2019 incident in Texas in which a churchgoer shot a man who opened fire during a service.

The third firearms bill would allow people injured in gun shootings that occur within gun-free zones designated by the Commonwealth of Virginia or a locality to sue for damages. Currently, the state and localities have sovereign immunity from legal action.

McGuire also filed a bill to require the Virginia Department of Health to study the harmful algae blooms that plagued parts of Lake Anna during the past two years. The algae can make people and their pets sick if they come into contact with it while swimming in the lake.

A health department official said at a Lake Anna Civic Association meeting last year that algae could be attributed to a number of possible causes, including runoff from septic tanks or farms and weather conditions. Louisa County Board of Supervisors member Duane Adams, whose Mineral district includes the lake, said recently that a study is warranted.

The algae problem has also been identified in ponds in the Mountain Brook subdivision in Zion Crossroads, according to Supervisor Bob Babyok (Green Springs district), and is an issue in lakes in other parts of Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region.

Denise Bonds, Thomas Jefferson Health District director, told the board on Jan. 6 that the health department historically only tested harmful algae blooms in coastal areas, but Lake Anna was added when the problem was discovered there in 2018. She said the agency does not test other freshwater bodies but can provide educational resources.

The health department issued no-swim advisories several times during the warmer months of 2018 and 2019 and posted signs near the affected areas.

McGuire’s bill requires the agency to complete its study by the first day of the 2021 General Assembly session, one year from now. The study’s goals would be to identify the source or cause of the harmful algae blooms, determine a near-term treatment plan to reduce them and their effects and devise a long-term strategy to keep them from returning.

The delegate also filed a bill to create a source of funding for school resource officers. Though the bill is not targeted at a particular county, Sheriff Donald Lowe said this week Louisa County could take advantage of the funds in the future. Lowe hired SROs for the four elementary schools in 2018 on a part-time basis; the officers are employed during the school year, with funding split between the county government and Louisa County Public Schools.

A portion of revenues from taxes on alcohol licenses, distilled spirits and beer and wine coolers would fund the state program.