Virginia To Restore Reciprocity with 25 States—But with a Catch
Last December, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced that the Commonwealth would no longer recognize the concealed handgun licenses of 25 states beginning February 1, 2016, because, he said, their licensing requirements did not meet Virginia standards. The move appeared to be in furtherance of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s anti-gun agenda.
But in a bipartisan deal, the leaders of the General Assembly have reached an agreement on a new gun policy in the Commonwealth that will undo Herring’s decision and once again, restore reciprocity among those 25 states with Virginia.
A series of bills moved through the Senate Courts of Justice Committee Wednesday, January 27, 2016, that would restore reciprocity for permit holders traveling to and from Virginia. On February 4, 2016, the Senate passed a key part of the deal to restore reciprocity. The House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee voted February 5, 2016, to advance the three major pieces of the gun deal. The bipartisan deal on guns is moving forward in the Virginia House of Delegates with added clauses to compel Attorney General Mark Herring to respond to a compromise he has criticized.
“These enactment clauses are intended to hold the attorney general’s feet to the fire in terms of following through on the legislation as a whole,” said Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County. “We are hopeful that he will do so.”
The bills restore and expand recognition for out-of-state concealed carry permits, which Herring had moved to limit last year after finding that 25 states had looser permitting qualifications than Virginia. All three bills include language requiring the attorney general to restore reciprocity agreements with all states recognized by Virginia prior to Herring’s decision within 60 days of the legislation taking effect. If that target is not met, the language says, the entire deal would be nullified.
The deal, however, comes with new caveats. The new legislation would require the Virginia State Police to be available at all gun shows to perform voluntary background checks for sellers who are not federally licensed. It also would require anyone subject to a permanent protective order to surrender guns in their possession, a policy aimed at removing guns from domestic violence situations. Virginia law currently prohibits the purchase or transport — but not possession — of guns by these individuals. Federal law prohibits all three.
The bill to expand background checks at gun shows, HB 1386, and the bill to take away the gun rights of domestic violence offenders, HB 1391, passed the House committee with bipartisan support and a few Republicans dissenting. The Senate passed its versions of the two bills Friday, February 5, 2016.
As is typical, both sides to the gun control debate are claiming victory—Virginians’ concealed carry licenses will soon once again be recognized in those states affected by Herring’s decision as well as visitors to Virginia from those states will have their licenses recognized, and the so-called gun show loop-hole will be closed a little while keeping guns out of the hands of certain individuals, proponents and opponents of gun control are saying.
“If finally enforcing our concealed handgun reciprocity laws helps break the legislative logjam on efforts to expand background checks and force domestic abusers to turn over their guns, then I’m glad we could provide some momentum and I hope this is just the first step in enacting sensible gun safety measures,” Herring said.
The deal was announced by Gov. McAuliffe at a news conference on Friday, January 29, 2016, just days before Herring’s decision was to go into effect.
So, to all our Virginia Members that travel and to our other Members that may travel to Virginia, reciprocity has not yet been restored. But they are working on it. Stay tuned. We will keep you advised on the progress of the restoration of Virginia’s reciprocity with the other states.