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Opinion: Virginia's Leaders Deserve Praise for Gun Compromise



That was big. No matter how they try to spin it.

No, I’m not referring to the astonishing results out of Iowa last week, that Trump lost and Hillary barely eked out a win over a self-described democratic socialist.

I’m talking about the concealed-carry compromise struck the last week of January between Gov. Terry McAuliffe and GOP leaders in the General Assembly.

The move was unexpected and important, and it signaled a willingness by the Democratic governor and Republicans to work together. That’s something that has been missing during the first two contentious years of the McAuliffe administration.

Everyone loses when the governor and legislature are at war.

The agreement was a victory for common-sense supporters of the Second Amendment in Virginia and a blow for those who merely look for ways to nibble away at gun rights under the guise of “safety,” when it’s clear that safety has little to do with their motivation.

Case in point: Days before Christmas, Attorney General Mark Herring announced that Virginia was terminating concealed-carry reciprocity agreements with 25 states that had laws he believed were less strict than the commonwealth’s.

The heavy-handed move was ill-advised and unnecessarily provocative. Worse, it reeked of politics.

Herring’s office was unable to point to a single bad act committed by a person in possession of an out-of-state concealed-carry permit. Yet, by terminating reciprocity with more than two dozen states, many visitors to Virginia were slated to automatically lose their rights to carry weapons here, and many Virginians faced the possibility of losing their rights to carry firearms in other jurisdictions.

Herring appeared to be acting unilaterally to protect the commonwealth from marauding Minnesotans and Montanans.

Still, gun-control advocates applauded the measure that was scheduled to go into effect last week. They called the new restrictions “common sense” and chided those who “stomp red-faced” about them.

But in a breathtaking move, McAuliffe simultaneously rebuffed gun-control advocate Michael Bloomberg, who’s donated millions of dollars to anti-gun Democratic candidates in Virginia, and his own attorney general.

Attempts were made to allow Herring to save face, of course. For instance, McAuliffe’s spokesman told The Richmond Times-Dispatch that without the attorney general’s “leadership,” the compromise wouldn’t have been reached. But as The Washington Post pointed out, Herring also was “conspicuously absent” from the announcement in Richmond.

In return for rolling back the reciprocity ban, Republicans agreed to two measures that may actually improve safety in Virginia without infringing on gun rights.

First, the GOP-majority General Assembly is expected to approve a law that makes it a felony for anyone who’s been slapped with a long-term protective order to own a firearm.

Perfectly reasonable.

Second, both sides agreed to a new mandate that will put state police at gun shows to conduct voluntary background checks for private gun sellers.

Again, if the state cops have the manpower, why not?

You would think both sides in the gun debate would praise Virginia’s leaders for agreeing to measures that make the commonwealth safer while protecting the rights of law-abiding folks to carry concealed weapons.

You would be wrong.

Gun control advocates are apoplectic about the compromise, accusing the governor of capitulating to the National Rifle Association. According to The Washington Post, the spokesman for a group supported by Bloomberg asked McAuliffe to scrap it:

“Gov. McAuliffe should reconsider this dangerous gift to the gun lobby,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, which in the fall poured more than $2 million into two state Senate races at McAuliffe’s request.

Who’s engaging in a red-faced stomp now? S

Kerry Dougherty is a columnist for the Virginian-Pilot.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.


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