One month ago, Virginia became a sudden and shining example of progress for the gun-control movement. The state’s Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, announced that Virginia would no longer recognize concealed-carry permits of firearms owners in the 25 states with laxer gun laws than its own. The National Rifle Association promptly called his decision “the biggest setback” that gun owners had suffered politically in all of 2015.
On Friday, the state reversed itself. As part of a bipartisan agreement with Republican legislators, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia would keep granting reciprocity to out-of-state gun owners, so long as they had not been specifically denied a permit in Virginia. (The ban was to have taken effect next week.) In exchange, GOP leaders agreed to change state laws to prevent domestic abusers from possessing guns and to make it harder for private dealing from skipping a background check when selling at state gun shows. A beaming McAuliffe declared the accord a potentially life-saving victory for Virginia and the most significant bipartisan deal on gun laws in a generation.
Yet gun-control advocates were enraged, accusing the Democratic governor of a betrayal that gives up a hard-fought victory by ending reciprocity rights for concealed-carry permit holders. “This deal is a dangerous rollback that puts public safety at risk,” wrote a group of Virginians who either survived gun violence or saw family members struck down by it. “It’s practically a giveaway.” The letter was organized by EveryTown for Gun Safety, the advocacy group funded in large part by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence piled on. “We are deeply disappointed that Governor McAuliffe has given in to the demands of the corporate gun lobby,” said Dan Gross, the organization’s president.
He has cut a deal, and it is a bad and dangerous one for people who live in and visit Virginia. He has basically rolled out a welcome mat for people who are armed and dangerous. Virginia already had only modest standards for deciding who is allowed to carry loaded, hidden guns. Now those standards are even lower, as domestic abusers and felons who have obtained concealed carry permits in other states with even lower standards will soon be able to menace the streets and neighborhoods of Virginia. Governor McAuliffe has made a raw deal for Virginians.
That’s important because gun-control advocates were angered that the NRA was apparently included in the negotiations while they were not. Andy Parker, the father of a local television reporter who was murdered on-air last year, criticized McAuliffe for trading the reciprocity ban for “NRA-supported, watered-down gun-safety laws.”
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