Concealed carry laws in Virginia will be changing shortly after the new year, as the commonwealth will no longer recognize many out-of-state gun permits. The state’s Attorney General, Mark R Herring, said Tuesday it is eliminating gun permit reciprocity agreements with 25 other states.
Interestingly, this comes at a time when gun sales are growing at a substantial pace nationwide. In a previous Inquisitr report, a record number of background checks for gun permit applications and sales were performed by the FBI on Black Friday 2015.
The Virginia AG is retracting the agreements with other states whose concealed carry laws fail to meet Virginia standards. Those states can issue gun permits to residents who would normally be disqualified under Virginia law, like stalkers and drug dealers.
The AG says the change is important to the safety and security of Virginia residents.
“Evenly, consistently and fairly enforcing Virginia’s concealed handgun permit law, as we are now doing, means that it will be more difficult for potentially dangerous individuals to conceal their handguns here in Virginia and that will make Virginians safer, especially Virginian law enforcement.”
When Virginia’s gun permit reciprocity change takes effect on February 1, over 6 million people may lose the privilege to legally carry a concealed weapon within the commonwealth.
The following states are losing reciprocity with Virginia.
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Additionally, due to mutual reciprocity agreement requirements, Virginia-issued concealed carry permits will no longer be valid in six states.
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
As high-profile mass shootings become more frequent, lawmakers have been faced with the task of strengthening gun laws while treading lightly to avoid stepping on an individual’s right to own and carry a gun. The AG’s move is intended to combat gun violence without having to take the issue to the legislature.
Some residents like Philip Van Cleave, president of Virginia Citizens Defense League, says revoking gun permit reciprocity will significantly hurt tourism.
“I don’t go on vacation in states where I can’t carry my gun. Particularly in states like New York or New Jersey, where you really need a gun. I won’t go there.”
He also believes Virginia should change the law and remove the requirement to have a permit altogether. According to him, a legal gun owner should be able to carry a gun whenever and wherever they please.
The change has lit a fire among gun rights supporters who accuse Herring of using his position to eat away at the Second Amendment.
Chris Cox, executive director at the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action says the action by the AG puts lives at risk.
“At a time when people are scared and desperately need the ability to defend themselves, Herring has chosen the path of making self-defense harder. Those affected by this reckless political decision are law-abiding citizens – not dangerous criminals.”
The NRA is currently lobbying for national reciprocity, which would require concealed carry permits be recognized in all states.
Some Virginia politicians are upset about the AG’s action as well. Republican Delegate, R. Lee Ware Jr., introduced a bill that would force universal reciprocity which would make Virginia recognize concealed carry laws of every state. Meanwhile, Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell said Herring is interpreting and applying the law based on personal political opinion, thereby causing irreparable harm to the honesty of the Attorney General’s office.
Democrats have responded that Herring is only enforcing the rules as set by the General Assembly. Democratic Senator, A. Donald McEachin, says Republicans shouldn’t be complaining as the AG is only following the gun permit laws as enacted by the GOP-controlled legislature.
Under current Virginia law, visitors to the commonwealth can still carry guns openly or get a nonresident permit if they meet the same concealed carry criteria set for residents. Other states such as Florida and New Mexico have revoked reciprocity agreements as well, but not to the extent of Virginia.
[Photo by George Frey/Getty Images]