RICHMOND — Declaring the start of a “new era,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Friday signed into law a package of gun bills, the product of a deal struck with Republican lawmakers that cost him the support of some of his strongest allies in the fight for gun control.
Opponents of the compromise, including Andy Parker, the outspoken father of a television journalist who was killed in southwest Virginia, noted that McAuliffe’s victory lap came on the six-month anniversary of his daughter’s shooting.
But underscoring what McAuliffe said was the historic nature of the deal, the governor signed the bills in the Executive Mansion, the first time he used the home for this purpose, and hinted at his legacy.
“I’m so proud to announce that a new era begins today here in the commonwealth of Virginia,” he said. “These new laws will serve as permanent protections for our citizens. They will remain in place when I leave office.”
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.
The reciprocity law reverses a bold step Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) took in December to revoke the rights of hundreds of thousands of permit holders from 25 states with standards more relaxed than Virginia’s. Now, the state will recognize the right to carry concealed arms for visitors from nearly all states that issue concealed handgun permits, and Virginians with a permit should be able to carry weapons in those states.
Herring has panned that part of McAuliffe’s deal, and he did not attend the bill signing, though a spokesman for the governor said he was invited.
Parker, once an ally of McAuliffe, said he was baffled that the governor, a self-professed dealmaker, would accept laws that many gun-control advocates call lopsided.
“I am beyond disappointed that Governor McAuliffe, whom I consider a friend, has abandoned his standing as a gun-safety champion to strike a political deal with the gun lobby — and that he is signing this legislation on the six-month anniversary of my daughter Alison’s death,” he said in a statement.
The National Rifle Association, which had two lobbyists in Richmond to help structure the deal, said the new laws in Virginia could bolster its campaign for reciprocity at the federal level.
“Hopefully, this effort will encourage Congress to pass national right to carry reciprocity legislation as soon as possible,” Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.
Brian Moran, McAuliffe’s secretary of public safety, and Sen. Bryce E.Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) negotiated the deal in secret at the start of the legislative session.
Reeves, who has been mentioned as a candidate for statewide office, quoted the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher: “First you win the argument, then you win the vote.”