By Larry Keane
The newly minted 2020 Virginia state legislature – led this session by Democrats in the General Assembly and Governor’s mansion – has wasted little time acting to curb their citizens’ Second Amendment rights. Numerous gun control proposals were introduced as legislation, including one particular bill that will lead to widespread confusion regarding the Commonwealth’s concealed carry reciprocity agreements. It’s a move that’s potentially damaging to not just Virginians, but law-abiding concealed carry permit holders who travel to and through the state.
Virginia currently has concealed carry reciprocity agreements with 35 other states, meaning Virginians can carry concealed with their valid Virginia permit across state borders in those states, down through Florida, west to Nevada and north to Ohio and West Virginia. Likewise, valid permit holders from all other states are legally authorized to carry concealed while in the Old Dominion. Virginia is a full reciprocity state, meaning state authorities will honor all other U.S. state and territory valid permits.
Politics with Permits
Reciprocity could be in jeopardy. Virginia Democrats in Richmond are giddily playing politics with the Virginian’s Constitutional rights, and any other valid permit holder who travels in from out of state. The proposal – HB 569, introduced by Democrat Delegate Dan Helmer, would give the Commonwealth’s Attorney General Mark Herring unilateral say over which states to allow reciprocity in Virginia and which states he could now disallow.
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The Constitution guarantees the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms. Just as free speech does not stop at a state line, or due process rights, our Second Amendment rights shouldn’t be limited to the state in which a person lives or visits. Instead of standing up for his citizens, Delegate Helmer would sacrifice their civil rights to make the already complex patchwork of state gun laws as confusing as rush hour traffic headed through Washington D.C.
Not the First Time
The really crazy thing, however, is this was done before only to face a swift backlash from Virginia voters. Attorney General Mark Herring played politics with Constitutional rights when he discontinued Virginia’s reciprocity agreements, but then agreed to allow them to be reinstated with nearly all states a few years ago under then-Governor Terry McAuliffe. It’s no wonder Virginia gun-owners are rightly concerned. There’s so much confusion around the legislature and these proposals which would turn law-abiding citizens into criminals.
This is a glaring example of why Congress must act on The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2019 (S. 69/H.R. 38), introduced by U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) to establish common sense, nationwide reciprocity. These national reciprocity bills would ensure that a licensed individual permitted in their home state would have their concealed carry permit treated in the same manner as their drivers’ license. States would still set standards for issuance and rules of carrying, but that permit would be honored as fully legal across a state line. It makes it so a law-abiding citizen wouldn’t be caught in the lurch, unwittingly breaking the law by driving into or through a neighboring state.
The rash of gun control bills now under consideration in Virginia fail to offer real solutions to address the criminal misuse of firearms, accidents and suicides. They only chip away at the rights of those who already follow the law, have endured multiple background checks and proven their trustworthiness. Playing politics with Second Amendment rights is absurd and Congress has the opportunity – and responsibility – to protect the rights of all Americans from these underhanded maneuvers.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.