One of the biggest surprises of this General Assembly Session to date involves a possible deal to enhance gun safety in the Commonwealth. On Friday, January 29, Governor McAuliffe and Speaker Howell proposed a deal involving concealed carry permit reciprocity, enhanced background checks, and greater protections for victims of domestic violence. The deal is still not finalized, because a number of bills will have to pass and be signed by the Governor before all of the measures take effect. Much of the Capitol was surprised by the proposal, which apparently originated after the NRA approached the Governor’s office to see if anything could be done to restore concealed permit reciprocity agreements that Attorney General Herring recently stated he would not enforce because a review was not done of the other states’ permit requirements, as current law specifies. The proposal, as it is emerging, has three basic components:
- Virginia will continue to recognize concealed carry permits from other states as was done prior to the Attorney General’s action of several months ago. It has been my view that we should not allow a state with less stringent criteria than Virginia to control who should be able to carry concealed in our state. Virginia has specific criteria for concealed permits and it is only common sense that non-Virginians also meet our criteria in order to exercise the privilege of carrying a concealed weapon in the Commonwealth.
- Victims of domestic violence will gain greater protection, something we have advocated for years. Under the proposed deal, a person subject to a protective order that has been adjudicated by a judge will not be permitted to own, possess, or transport a firearm for as long as the Order is in effect. Concrete data exists that shows this change will actually save lives; there have been four reported gun deaths committed by former partners after a protective order was issued. I have offered and supported bills like this in the past, all of which had been previously killed by the more strident gun groups.
- We would expand background checks at gun shows. Last year, I proposed such a measure which was defeated in subcommittee. Under present law, licensed dealers at gun shows have to conduct a background check of every person who attempts to buy a firearm. Private sellers at the shows, however, do not. This has been called the “gun show loophole.” Under the deal, private sellers would not be required to conduct a background check, but if they have any concerns about a person seeking to buy the firearm, they could request such a check be done by the State Police in advance of selling the firearm.
While this deal is not perfect and there is much work that remains, it represents a major step toward gun safety. It remains to be seen if the “gun groups” will support any deal, but passing bills like these would go a long way to improve the feeling of safety and security among domestic violence victims and within our communities. It is important to stress that we would not have gotten here without the courage of Attorney General Herring and the actions of our Governor.
I am most interested to hear how my constituents feel about this proposed deal. Several votes will be taken in the next week or two, and it will be good to hear from citizens with any concerns that you have.
In other news, we continue our efforts to elect Supreme Court Justice Jane Roush to a full term on the bench. On Wednesday, she was deemed qualified in a unanimous vote by the House Courts of Justice Committee. The Republican leadership has been critical of Roush, but has never really presented a rationale for why she should be fired. If she is ousted, it will be the first time a sitting Supreme Court Justice has been removed in over 115 years. The only apparent reason is the Republican leadership did not like the way Governor McAuliffe handled the appointment. At present, the candidate of the Republican leadership does not have sufficient votes to be approved by the Senate, with the result that we are deadlocked. If the appointment is not made by the end of the Session, Governor McAuliffe has the opportunity for another “recess appointment,” and is likely to reappoint Justice Roush. We will then do this again in January 2017. This entire situation is extremely troubling because it is further politicizing the selection process.
My resolution, HR75, which commends the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom and condemns the statements of those that would argue that Muslims should be prohibited from entering the United States because of their religion was passed this week. Two of my other bills, HB935, a bill to extend foster care services to youngsters over the age of 18, and HB915, a measure that will allow localities like Charlottesville and Albemarle who have video dashboard monitoring systems on their school buses to report violations of unlawful passing, continue to move forward and may come to the floor next week. I am hoping that each of these measures will be passed and become law.
The Democrats in the House have been reenergized by eight new Democratic members who took their seats in January. As Leader, this is making a dramatic difference as we advance our proposals in the House.