Executive fiat has again reared its ugly head in Virginia. This is evident from the recent decision by Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) to sever concealed- carry reciprocity agreements with 25 of the 30 states with which Virginia had such deals.
By dissolving these reciprocity arrangements, the attorney general has undermined the ability of law-abiding, responsible Virginians to carry concealed firearms when traveling to at least six other states that required the mutual recognition of permits. It’s likely many of the other states will terminate the right for Virginia permit holders to carry concealed handguns, so Virginians who possess concealed-carry permits will be left with only five other states where they can carry a concealed firearm.
By limiting the number of states that share concealed-carry reciprocity deals, the Virginia attorney general has created a situation that will likely result in many law-abiding gun owners running afoul of the law when traveling inside or outside of Virginia. Think this situation sounds far-fetched? It’s not. The lack of a concealed-carry reciprocity agreement between Pennsylvania and New Jersey almost ruined the life of an African American mother from Philadelphia, Shaneen Allen, who was arrested when carrying her gun in her car in 2013 . Allen, who had no prior criminal record, voluntarily informed a New Jersey officer who pulled her over during a routine traffic stop that she was in possession of a concealed-carry permit and her firearm. While there was no evidence to suggest that Allen intended to use the firearm for any other purpose than self-defense, her misunderstanding of New Jersey law led to her being charged with a felony and jailed for 40 days.
The attorney general claims “this is a commonsense step that can help make Virginians and our law enforcement officers safer,” but it appears he is overlooking some important crime statistics.
An analysis from the Crime Prevention Research Center this year revealed that the number of concealed-carry permit holders soared from 4.6 million in 2007 to 12.8 million now. In addition, recent research from Mark Gius with Quinnipiac University found that “states with more restrictive [concealed-carry weapons] laws had gun-related murder rates that were 10 [percent] higher.”
In 2014, fewer than 1 percent of Virginia’s concealed-carry permit holders, who now number 420,000, had their permits revoked, according to the Virginia State Police. That tiny number has been declining over the past several years. It’s also consistent with findings in other states that individuals who are licensed to carry firearms are significantly more law-abiding than the general public.
The proliferation of individuals who possess concealed-carry permits and an increase in the number of states that allow for concealed carry have coincided with a massive decrease in crime.
According to the Pew Research Center, the firearm homicide rate declined 49 percent from 1993 to 2010 in the United States. In addition, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows a precipitous drop in violent crime — a 50 percent decrease from 1991 to 2013.
Obviously, individuals who carry concealed firearms do not pose a threat to Virginians.
John Jones, the executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, told me, “The issue of concealed-carry permittees posing a risk to law enforcement has not risen to the attention of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association.” The attorney general claims to be promoting public safety with his decision, but this is nothing more than a red herring to push Herring’s anti-gun agenda.
When Herring ran for attorney general, he claimed he would take politics out of the attorney general’s office. Unfortunately, he hasn’t fulfilled this promise, and he continues to use his position to advance his own beliefs. We are accustomed to seeing this sort of behavior in our nation’s capital, but not in Virginia’s.
The writer, a Republican, represents the 18th District, which encompasses all of Rappahannock and portions of Fauquier, Warren and Culpeper counties, in the Virginia House of Delegates.