By Matthew Ward
PORTSMOUTH, Virginia (Reuters) - Virginia repealed a one-per-month limit on handgun purchases on Tuesday, less than five years after a mentally-deranged student used handguns to massacre 32 people at Virginia Tech University in the worst single act of gun violence in U.S. history.
Governor Bob McDonnell, who is high on the list of possible 2012 Republican vice presidential candidates, signed the controversial legislation into law.
The limit had been on the books since 1993, when it was enacted in an effort to curb gun-smuggling operations. Virginia had a reputation as a state where gunrunners could arrange to purchase a volume of guns to sell on the streets of cities such as Washington, D.C. and New York.
Earlier this month, the state Senate voted 21-19 and the House of Delegates voted 66-32 to repeal the limit.
Supporters of the repeal said lifting the limit would bring Virginia into line with the majority of states. California, Maryland and New Jersey are the only others with such handgun purchasing limits, Republican Senator Charles Carrico Sr said.
Opponents worry about an increase in gun violence.
McDonnell signed the Virginia repeal law one day after a high school student opened fire at an Ohio school, killing three students and wounding two others. The shooting focused attention on gun violence in the United States.
The gun limit repeal is the latest of a raft of conservative measures the Virginia legislature has passed this year. They include requiring an ultrasound before a woman can have an abortion, a voter ID law opposed by Democrats and minority voters, and a proposal to allow citizens to use deadly force against any home invader.
(Editing by Greg McCune)