In December, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring decreed that the commonwealth would not recognize the concealed carry permits of gun owners in 25 states, including Tennessee and Kentucky, beginning Feb. 1, unilaterally nullifying reciprocity agreements with those states.
The ensuing uproar posed a certain nullification of Herring’s own move by the Republican-controlled General Assembly during a session when the state’s two-year budget cycle was supposed to have been the main focus for 2016.
Instead, Republican leaders and the governor have been negotiating a compromise that has resulted in restoration of reciprocity agreements with other states. GOP lawmakers agreed to go along with other strictures the McAuliffe administration characterizes as concessions on the matter of gun safety, while Republican legislators shrug off those items as existing law and/or common senses anyway.
“Basically, what we have been pushing for is to get reciprocity back with all 50 states, and that’s what we got,” Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, said Friday.
“We’ve been working with the (National Rifle Association) and other (Second Amendment) support groups, so we were also able to forge other agreements and basically if we are asked, ‘What did you give up?,’ we agreed to some things in the law already (such as gun permits revoked or disallowed in cases of domestic protective orders), and allow voluntary background checks at gun shows where the (Virginia State Police) can set up a background check station at gun shows to do background checks, and finally, if you have a permit revoked in one state you can’t get one here, and we are not going to recognize a permit from another state if you are ineligible to get one here.”
Kilgore said the NRA “supports the bill, and my goal coming up here, as I stated before the session and over the last couple of weeks, was to make sure we are able to put the reciprocity back in place for our citizens, and we worked hard and we were able to do that.”
As far as he knows, Kilgore said Herring had no direct participation in the negotiations that resulted in the reciprocity resolution.
“I’m not sure he was even in the negotiations that I know of. But it’s not even the intent for an attorney general to have veto power or the authority to say, ‘We don’t recognize those states.’ That has caused us some issues with other states on agreements we already signed, and it just did not look good for Virginia,” Kilgore said.
“But, hopefully, this puts this issue to rest and we can now get on to other issues that are important to Virginians, and we can move on with our session now. It is better (for the reciprocity matter to be resolved) early than late.”
On Tuesday, the issue brought 9th District Congressman Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, and Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe together in Bristol in a border declaration of defiance slamming Herring’s decision and urging Virginia to live up to its agreements.
When the two House colleagues learned of the agreement, they issued a joint statement praising the resolution of the matter.
“Like many of our constituents, we were frustrated by Attorney General Herring’s confusing and unworkable decision to no longer recognize out-of-state concealed carry permits. Put simply, we believe your Second Amendment right does not stop at a state line,” Griffith and Roe said.
The statement referred to the pair’s visit to Bristol last week to discuss the effects Herring’s decision would have “on our constituents who regularly cross state lines — some who do so by simply walking across the street — as well as local law enforcement tasked with carrying out the policy.”
Roe and Griffith said they believe their Bristol visit “helped bring to light difficulties in enforcing this poor decision by Attorney General Herring and are of the opinion it was instrumental in bringing the governor to his senses.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, during a stop in Kingsport on Friday for the ribbon-cutting at the new Pure Foods snack food facility, said he’s glad a deal has been worked out.
“I was very pleased to hear Virginia was going to back away from denying (gun permit) reciprocity,” Haslam, a Republican, told reporters. “As you all know, there are so many people here who go back and forth in Virginia to Tennessee. People work on one side of the border and live on the other and vice versa.”
Staff Writer Hank Hayes contributed to this report.