RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who struck a compromise on guns with Republicans this year, has gone on to veto a flurry of gun rights bills that were not part of that deal.
In the past week alone, McAuliffe (D) vetoed bills that would have given domestic-violence victims under protective orders the temporary right to carry concealed weapons without applying for permits or getting training. He also nixed measures that would have allowed retired police officers working as private security guards at public schools to carry weapons on campus.
Some Republicans said the governor is trying to win back some of the gun rights activists who broke with McAuliffe over the gun deal, which greatly expanded the right to carry concealed weapons in exchange for voluntary background checks at gun shows and tighter restrictions on domestic abusers.
“They’re as mad as a wet hen at the guy, and he just threw them a political bone,” said Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), a leading gun rights lawmaker, who had two gun bills vetoed in the past week.
McAuliffe’s spokesman, Brian Coy, said the governor based his decisions on what he thinks is best for citizens.
“Governor McAuliffe applies one standard to bills like these,” Coy wrote in an email. “If they make Virginia safer, he signs them. If they do not, he vetoes them.”
McAuliffe did approve a pair of Republican-sponsored bills to expand gun rights. But that move angered some GOP leaders because the new law covers only a very select group of Virginians.
McAuliffe signed identical House and Senate bills to allow the state’s judges and prosecutors to carry concealed weapons without having to undergo the normal permit-application and training process. The new law also allows them to carry their weapons most anywhere with a few exceptions, such as in the secure areas of airports.
The idea is to allow them to carry weapons at courthouses — the gun-free zones where they work — and at other locations, including places prosecutors might go in the course of an investigation, such as a school, said Sen. Stephen D. Newman (R-Lynchburg), who sponsored the Senate version.
Some GOP leaders were infuriated that McAuliffe was willing to expand gun rights for judges but not for women in crisis or retired law enforcement.
Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) criticized McAuliffe for what he called a “callous level of elitist hypocrisy in determining which citizens have a right to defend themselves as they see fit.”
“It is appalling to me that he is going to let a woman in danger fend for herself while giving extra, added protection to people who already have extra, added protection to begin with,” he said, referring to courthouse security, which usually includes metal detectors and armed officers.
Coy did not respond to Gilbert’s criticism.
On Thursday, McAuliffe vetoed a pair of identical bills, sponsored by Gilbert and Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Fauquier), to allow anyone who had obtained a protective order to carry a concealed weapon for 45 days without a permit or training. The person would have to be otherwise eligible to possess a firearm.
McAuliffe called the legislation “a very, very dangerous gamble that will lead to more tragedies.” He said the bills “may have been well intentioned” but would make it easier for deadly firearms to be inserted into volatile situations where the gun could be turned against the person who sought it for protection.
McAuliffe and Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security, said the bills would have undermined a law passed this year, which requires anyone subject to a protective order to sell or give away any weapons or face felony charges.
Gilbert said his legislation would have helped women protect themselves when they tend to be most vulnerable — right after a protective order has been issued.
McAuliffe vetoed those bills at a public event at Alexandria City Hall, where he also vetoed a Lingamfelter bill related to brandishing firearms.
Under that bill, people could have been convicted of brandishing a firearm only if they intended their conduct to cause fear or should have reasonably known that it would. Current law makes it unlawful to brandish a gun in a way that “reasonably” induces fear in a person of being shot or injured — intent is not addressed.
On April 1, McAuliffe vetoed another Lingamfelter measure, which would have allowed retired law enforcement officers to be armed while working as private security guards at schools. Supporters said hiring retired officers is a cheaper option than employing a current officer to serve as a resource officer.
McAuliffe said the bill “fails to distinguish between an individual who retired recently or 20 years ago.” He also said there was a difference between private security guards and the armed school resource officers already assigned to some public schools. The latter are law enforcement officers detailed to schools, who receive ongoing training, he said.
“Allowing additional firearms in schools without appropriate training would create an environment that is less, rather than more, secure,” he said.