RICHMOND — Just days after Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) struck a gun deal with Republican leaders, the Virginia Senate reverted to its mostly partisan habits on the issue.
On the floor was a bill from Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun), which would have largely done away with the need to obtain a permit before carrying a concealed weapon.
He referred to the measure as “constitutional carry.”
“It’s based on the idea that the Second Amendment is a constitutional right and that citizens have a right to carry firearms without permission of the government,” Black explained recently. “It’s analogous to the First Amendment, where you don’t need a government permit to tell you what you can say and what you can’t.”
The argument did not carry the day in the Senate, which the GOP controls by a 21-19 margin. Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta), a moderate known for crossing party lines on some hot-button issues, joined with Democrats to vote against the bill, leading to a 20-20 tie.
Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who presides over the chamber, broke the tie by voting against the bill.
The bill was unrelated to the gun deal that McAuliffe and Republican legislators unveiled last week. But the near-party-line vote indicates that, despite the bipartisan nature of the earlier agreement, guns remain a difficult issue in Richmond.
Indeed, even that deal was the subject of continued controversy, with gun-safety advocates still complaining bitterly that the gun-rights side got the better end of the deal.
Black’s bill would have eliminated the need to get a concealed-carry permit, with anyone who is legally entitled to carry a weapon automatically allowed to carry it concealed. Permits would have been issued only if a Virginian wanted one to show when traveling out of state.
The broader McAuliffe-GOP gun deal reversed Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s recent action to sever reciprocity rights of gun owners in states with concealed-weapons standards looser than Virginia’s. The deal, which still needs approval from the legislature, would direct Herring (D) to strike reciprocity deals with every state that offers them.
The deal also would make it a felony under Virginia law for someone subject to a two-year protective order to possess a gun. And it calls for putting a state trooper at every gun show to run background checks for private sellers who currently have no way to check buyers’ criminal histories. Those checks would be optional for private vendors.