Landmark Virginia Gun Carry Deal Signed Into Law

Gun rights groups celebrate as gun control advocates trash the deal

Terry McAuliffe
Terry McAuliffe / AP
March 1, 2016

Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed the six bills that make up the gun carry deal he and the state's Republicans agreed to late last month.

The deal represents a landmark for gun rights within in the state. It expands Virginia's recognition of gun carry permits to all states that agree to increase recognition of Virginia's own permit across the country. It is also a complete reversal of a previous plan, announced late last year, to eliminate recognition of nearly all permits from other states via a decree from the attorney general that McAuliffe supported.

Gun rights advocates applauded the final passage of the deal. "Now more than six million law-abiding gun owners will be free to travel in and out of Virginia with their Second Amendment rights intact," Chris W. Cox, head of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement. "Self-defense is a fundamental right that must be respected."

"On behalf of the NRA’s more than five million members, we commend this effort to protect public safety and fundamental freedoms."

The Virginia Citizens Defense League, which was involved in the crafting of the deal, echoed the sentiment. "The signing into law of the expanded reciprocity bill, where Virginia will honor the concealed handgun permits from all other states, is an important step toward the day when all permits will be honored in all states," Philip Van Cleave, the group's president, told the Washington Free Beacon.

The deal also expands access to the background check system at gun shows through a voluntary process. Starting July 1, Virginia State Police will conduct voluntary background checks at the request of the parties involved in a private sale for either a $2 or $5 fee.

Additionally, those subject to a permanent protection order will be barred from possessing firearms while the order is in effect. The new permanent protection law mimics one that is already in place at the federal level.

Though the provisions will likely expand the number of background checks performed at gun shows and keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals, gun control advocates continued a multi-week effort lambasting the deal as a betrayal.

"Governor McAuliffe cut a backroom deal with the NRA that betrays gun violence survivors and endangers the safety of all Virginians—we expected more from him," John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. "Nonetheless, we will keep up our fight against the gun lobby's efforts to weaken our laws and we will continue to stand up for public safety and the hundreds of Americans affected by gun violence every day."

The law also ends confusion over whether there would be a short period when the attorney general's order to eliminate recognition of other states' permits would go into effect before the deal.

Virginia will continue to recognize the permits from states it already had agreements with before expanding recognition to all other states on July 1. It remains unclear how other states will react to the previous uncertainty surrounding the issue, but several states are likely to extend recognition to Virginia's permit once the deal takes effect.