Localities that hold gun buybacks would be prohibited from destroying the weapons under a bill that a House of Delegates committee approved on Friday.

The bill submitted by Delegate Mark Cole, Fredericksburg Republican, which cleared the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee on an 18-4 vote, would require localities to sell the collected firearms to licensed gun dealers. It also would require the localities to pass an ordinance in order to hold a buyback program.

In other legislative news, Attorney General Bob McDonnell, a Republican, said Friday that while he appreciates bipartisan cooperation, he doesn't support the smoking proposal backed by Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, and House Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford Republican.

Mr. McDonnell, his party's candidate for governor, said government should not demand that private businesses ban smoking. He said the issue should be left to the free market, noting that more than half of Virginia's restaurants already voluntarily have become smoke free.

The compromise announced Thursday would ban smoking in restaurants, except private clubs and eateries with walled-off, separately ventilated smoking rooms. The House will vote on the bill early next week.

Mr. Cole's bill does not prohibit those who want to turn over their gun to have it destroyed from doing so as long as they do not get anything in return.

If the bill passes in the full House, it could have a more difficult time in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Opponents said it would defy the whole point of the buyback program, which is to take guns off the street by destroying them. The guns would go to licensed dealers, who must run background checks to make sure felons, domestic abusers and the mentally ill don't get them.

ASSOCIATED PRESS Alvin Burton (left) turns over nine handguns to an official in December during the 'Gun Buy Back' at the Second Precinct in the South Norfolk section of Chesapeake, Va. Mr. Burton received a $100 gift card for each working handgun he turned in to be destroyed.

The bill could provide money for cash-strapped localities and police departments while also making sure the guns do not fall into the wrong hands, Mr. Cole said.

"Some of them are valuable, and I think it's kind of a waste of taxpayer funds to just destroy those," he said.

Mr. Cole said he couldn't estimate how much the localities could get from selling the guns, because many of those turned in are worthless.

"I think the whole point should be to get them out of the hands of people who either shouldn't have them or don't want them, not to take them out of the hands of responsible people," he said.

Usually local stores give police departments gift cards to give in exchange for the weapons.

Newport News police received nearly 900 guns during buyback events in December 2007 and 2008. For both events, gun owners lined up early to receive $100 gift certificates for their weapons, said Lou Thurston, a spokesman for the department.

"We understand that we're not getting the gun away from the bad guy on the street," Mr. Thurston said. "It takes those guns out of the position of being taken in a burglary and being used in a violent crime."

Source: Washingon Times