Brooklyn DA at podium

Brooklyn, N.Y., District Attorney Eric Gonzalez spoke at a news conference  announcing charges against 24 people — 22 from Virginia — in connection with a gun ring that operated out of Richmond.

Nearly two-thirds of Virginians support Virginia's former law that restricted handgun purchases to one a month, according to a Quinnipiac University survey out today.

By nearly 2-to-1 respondents back increasing the number of people eligible for Medicaid coverage in Virginia, with 59 percent saying it is a good idea and 30 percent saying it is a bad idea.

And 59 percent back allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use, while 35 percent oppose the idea.

"Many observers have commented about how much Virginia has changed politically from its deep-red history to a leaning-Democratic hue in a little more than a decade," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

"They generally cite the Democrats' ability to carry the state in the most recent presidential, U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races. But what also seems to be lining up in the Democratic column is Virginia voters' values on some hot-button issues."

Republicans have not won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009. In November the state's voters will elect a new governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general as well as the 100 members of the House of Delegates.

Sixty-two percent said they support the one-gun-a-month law, while 32 percent oppose the idea.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, recently unsuccessfully proposed a legislative amendment to restore the limit, which was repealed under Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, in 2012. The amendment would have made it a Class 1 misdemeanor - punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine - for anyone other than a licensed firearms dealer to buy more than one handgun in a 30-day period.

In making the proposal, McAuliffe cited a 627-count indictment that charged 22 Virginians with running to New York more than 200 guns bought in Virginia and selling them to an undercover officer.

L. Douglas Wilder, the Democrat who served as governor when the restriction was implemented in 1993, called the gun ring bust, in which the alleged perpetrators talked about what they deemed Virginia's lax gun laws, "the very reason that the one-gun-a-month bill was put into place to begin with."

Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, called McAuliffe's proposal a "stunt" and legislators dispensed with it during the April 5 veto session.

As for health care, 31 states have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Virginia Republicans oppose expansion, citing concerns about how the program already is eating up an increasing share of the state budget.

On March 24, U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan pulled from consideration the GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare because it lacked enough Republican votes to pass. Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates defeated McAuliffe's latest push for Medicaid expansion during the veto session.

A new eight-member joint legislative committee will look at ways to improve health care for uninsured Virginians. Republican members say the group must determine how to approach the topic in a fiscally responsible manner.

As for marijuana decriminalization, Virginia legislators put such legislation on hold in February during the regular General Assembly session. The Virginia State Crime Commission's executive committee recently agreed to study decriminalization this year.

On other issues in the Quinnipiac survey, 66 percent say they are either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with "the way things are going in Virginia today" compared with 33 percent who said they are somewhat or very dissatisfied.

A total of 47 percent approve of President Donald Trump's nomination of newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, while 41 percent disapprove of the nomination.

Quinnipiac surveyed a total of 1,115 Virginia voters between April 6 and April 10. The survey's margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

acain@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6645

Twitter: @AndrewCainRTD

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