RICHMOND – Over the objections of eight Republicans, the House of Delegates on Friday approved the creation of a specialty license plate with the message “Stop Gun Violence.”
The House voted 89-8 with one abstention in favor of a bill to authorize the new plate and earmark proceeds from its sales to mental health and other services.
Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, sponsored House Bill 287. He said it would draw attention to problems caused by firearms.
“We have a culture in this country where we’ve started seeing gun violence on a daily basis,” Simon said. “It can get people thinking of what they can be doing to improve the gun violence epidemic that we have, unfortunately.”
Virginia has more than 250 types of specialty license plates. They include more than 90 for colleges and universities, more than 50 military-related plates and more than 110 plates promoting sports teams, nonprofit groups, communities and various causes.
Some of the plates are controversial. One says “Choose Life”; another says “Trust Women, Respect Choice.” There’s a plate calling Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee “The Virginia Gentleman” and another for the National Rifle Association.
House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert and seven fellow Republicans voted against HB 287. During debate this week, Gilbert accused Simon of trying to score political points with his “little ol’ license plate bill.”
“It is him trying to build a narrative that gun violence is somehow different from regular violence,” said Gilbert, a delegate from Shenandoah County.
Like other specialty plates, the “Stop Gun Violence” plate would cost $25 in addition to the regular vehicle registration fee. Most of the money would go to the state’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Fund.
Under HB 287, those funds would be used to enhance “the quality of care and treatment provided to individuals receiving public mental health, developmental, and substance abuse services in Virginia.”
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
The “Stop Gun Violence” plate is among more than a dozen additional types of specialty license plates under consideration in the General Assembly. Others include:
· A plate declaring “I Support Women Veterans,” to benefit the Virginia Department of Veterans Services
· A “National Wild Turkey Federation” plate, supporting the conservation of wild turkeys in Virginia
· A plate providing funding for the Alzheimer’s Association
· A plate with the words “E Pluribus Unum” – the U.S. motto of “Out of many, one”
By Alexandra Sosik
Capital News Service