RICHMOND — A package of bills in the gun deal Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) struck with Republican lawmakers advanced Friday, putting the agreement on a path to final passage next week despite a continued outcry from gun control advocates.
The deal would expand the rights of concealed carry handgun permit holders in Virginia and around the country in exchange for tighter restrictions on domestic abusers and voluntary background checks at gun shows.
A House panel joined the full Senate in passing all three bills as of Friday. A floor vote in the House could come as early as Tuesday.
The reciprocity bill is a reversal of a bold step Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) took in December to revoke the rights of hundreds of thousands of permit holders in 25 states whose standards are weaker than Virginia’s.
The decision angered gun rights proponents in both major political parties and has since been credited with bringing the National Rifle Association and McAuliffe’s Democratic administration to the bargaining table.
Yet during a House committee debate on the bills, Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said a clause had been added to each to ensure that Herring enacts the new law.
Gilbert said the clauses were added “so that all of these bills rise and fall together based on what we anticipate the attorney general should do in his role as Virginia’s lawyer, following the law as he is required to do. That has been a concern for some of us.”
Republicans have said they are leery of Herring’s judgment on gun regulations as well as issues important to the left, including same-sex marriage and immigration reform.
Through a spokesman, Herring defended his past decisions.
“Partisan potshots can’t change the fact that every action Attorney General Herring has taken has been right on the law, affirmed by courts and other authorities, and has been in line with where Virginians are on the issues,” spokesman Michael Kelly said in a statement. “He enforced the Republicans’ concealed handgun law exactly as written, his position on marriage equality was upheld by the Supreme Court, and the federal government has affirmed that DREAMers can qualify for in-state tuition.”
Herring, who was not in on the guns deal, has said progress on the domestic violence front should not come “at the price of dangerous or irresponsible people carrying concealed handguns in Virginia.”