Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to announce Friday that Virginia will restore handgun reciprocity agreements with nearly all states, in a stunning reversal of firearms policy that angered Republicans and gun rights advocates across the nation.
The about-face is part of a deal that McAuliffe (D) struck with Republican leaders one month after Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) severed the right for gun owners in 25 states to have their concealed carry permits recognized in Virginia.
The devil is in the details, and we must wait to see what they are. There are a few concessions already known that the governor pushed as part of his capitulation. The state police will be on hand at gun shows to do voluntary background checks for private sellers. Private sellers have always had the option to participate in the background check process, so that's little change from the current situation. A person subject to a domestic protective order will not be eligible for a concealed handgun permit while under the order. The protective order system does carry the possibility of abuse, but still there's not much room to argue with this in my opinion. Finally, people who have had their VA permit revoked cannot use a permit from another state in Virginia. Ignoring that we shouldn't need a permit to exercise a right in the first place, these so-called "concessions" already exist for all intents and purposes.
So what brought about the change in the governor's stance that saw him gain so little? At this point one can only speculate. It could be that Herring's order was just a trial balloon, one that failed miserably. There's no doubt that McAuliffe and Herring are of like-mind when it comes to restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens. I've heard it suggested that the governor was not happy with Herring's move. While McAuliffe may agree in principle, he could not have been pleased with the instant, and national, political fallout. Upsetting 420,000 Virginia permit holders on both sides of the aisle was not a wise move. I suspect McAuliffe was seeing the writing on the wall in the form of the overwhelming pro-rights support in legislative committees this session. Nearly every pro-gun bill was moving forward, while bills from the antis were dropping regularly. It's easy to argue that McAuliffe was in for an embarrassing political shellacking, and he is hoping to avoid even more pro-gun legislation coming across his desk. The governor stood to lose his "perfect" veto-proof record to date. (And he could still see that record fall.) One does have to wonder what Michael Bloomberg is thinking about his investment now.
This story is still unfolding and there's been no comment yet from the Attorney General. There's always the chance that there are more "concession" requests to come, but on the surface this is more of a win for freedom than a loss. There's been nothing said about dropping any other pro-gun legislation currently under consideration. We will still be watching the legislature closely as the battle goes on to fully defend the 2nd Amendment.
See "Va. will once again recognize concealed carry permits from other states" for more on McAuliffe's reversal of the Attorney General's actions.