Virginia Tightens Conceal-Carry Laws

| published December 23, 2015 |

By Keith H. Roberts,Thursday Review contributor

The battle between advocates of gun rights and advocates of stricter gun control laws is starting to escalate in the courts and legislatures of several states, as the issue of gun violence takes a larger share of center stage in political discussions by both U.S. parties.

The Attorney General of Virginia has said that as of February 1, 2016, his state will no longer recognize the concealed-carry permits of some 25 other states that have a reciprocal arrangement with Virginia. Attorney General Mark Herring made the announcement on Tuesday, citing a careful and detailed review of the concealed handgun laws of more than 30 states, and out of concern that numerous loopholes make it difficult to manage the flow of guns into the Old Dominion state.

Virginia will, however, continue to recognize the reciprocal conceal carry arrangements with five states: Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Michigan, and its closest neighbor West Virginia.

Among the things the Virginia decision will mandate: gun permits will not be recognized or authorized for any person convicted of a felony, for those deemed by courts or medical officials as being mentally unstable or mentally incompetent, and dishonorably discharged military personnel. The change to Virginia’s law will also disallow gun permits for those who have been convicted of domestic violence, and for those with recent arrests for driving-under-the-influence or alcohol or controlled substances.

Herring said that the 25 states whose concealed carry permits are no longer covered under the blanket arrangement found in the reciprocal agreements have been effectively booted out because those states gun laws are too relaxed, and could allow gun owners who pose a serious danger to the public to enter Virginia using their home state concealed carry permit.

Virginia’s chief executive wanted to take the state’s new gun legislation even further. Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe—a vocal supporter of tighter, more restrictive legislation against guns—wanted the make Virginia a model of tough gun laws. But McAuliffe lost several key fights with the Republican controlled legislature, which voted to water-down or kill the governor’s proposals.

Herring is also a Democrat, and Republicans in Virginia vowed to challenge the tighter restrictions on concealed-carry rules in that state. The NRA’s legislative arm immediately cried foul, claiming the move by the Attorney General was purely political. In a statement released to the media, Chris Cox, legislative director for the NRA, said individuals who are licensed to carry concealed weapons are among the safest gun owners in the nation.

“This decision is both dangerous and shameful,” Cox said.

But Herring said that Virginia should not be impeded or hamstrung through a reciprocal arrangement with states whose gun laws are too permissive.

Virginia is the state which saw the worst mass shooting in U.S. history when, in April 2007, a mentally unstable student went on a rampage, killing 32 people and injuring 17 others on the campus of Virginia Tech. The Virginia Tech perpetrator, Seung-Hui Cho, had a long history of mental disorders and behavioral problems, but flaws in the reporting system allowed him to purchase guns through a loophole in Virginia law.

Related Thursday Review articles:

How Many Mass Shootings in 2015? Depends on Who You Ask; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; December 10, 2015.

ISIS Praises Couple in San Bernardino Massacre; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; December 5, 2015.