HAMPTON ROADS-- Two former Virginia lawmakers from opposite ends of the political spectrum are not optimistic that the country will pass any new gun control laws this year.
Former Republican Congressman G. William Whitehurst and former Democratic State Senator Moody 'Sonny' Stallings say the gun-rights lobby is very powerful and will make passage of new laws very difficult.
In 1980 Whitehurst co-sponsored legislation to ban bullets capable of penetrating Kevlar vests worn by police officers. Whitehurst says the National Rifle Association fought the idea. 'I said, 'How can you justify the sale of a bullet that can penetrate a Kevlar vest worn by police officers? I thought you were for law and order like I am. What's the matter with you people?' And they said, 'This is the first step in taking our guns away from us.''
Nine years later Stallings ran into similar opposition. Stalling authored a bill in the Virginia General Assembly which required instant criminal background checks for anyone seeking to purchase semi-automatic weapons and handguns.
Stallings said opposition from the NRA was fierce, and he was worried his bill would never pass, but it did. 'Tens of thousands of felons have been stopped from buying guns over the last 24 years, who knows what crimes they would've committed with those guns,' he said.
Both former legislators are convinced the gun lobby will fight any gun control bills this year.
'I saw the power of the NRA, they have an enormous war chest,' said Whitehurst. 'And people that they feel are not in step with them, they're going to spend money against you.'
Stallings added, 'I'm afraid that the whole Connecticut thing will die down and they won't be able to get the votes to do it. Too many legislators will be scared of what the NRA can do to them in the polls.'
The NRA has expressed opposition to an assault weapons ban and other gun control laws that have been discussed.
NRA President David Keene told CNN over the weekend, 'We know what works and what doesn't, and we are not willing to compromise on people's rights when there is no evidence that doing so is going to accomplish the purpose.'