In an unprecedented move, Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring has taken his partisan political activism to a new level, lashing out against gun owners through his office’s unilateral invalidation of concealed carry reciprocity agreements with 25 states.
In a press conference held earlier today, Herring announced that law-abiding citizens holding concealed carry permits from the states of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming will be prohibited from carrying a concealed firearm in Virginia effective February 1st, 2016, despite holders of those permits having successfully passed a criminal records background check in their home state.
The consequences of Herring’s radical anti-Second Amendment agenda will not be limited to law-abiding citizens from other states. As a result of his unilateral action, Virginians holding a concealed carry permit issued by the Commonwealth will lose their reciprocity with Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wyoming – each of which will no longer recognize Virginia’s permit as a result of Herring’s decision to dishonor theirs.
Delegate Rob Bell, Herring’s presumptive Republican challenger in the 2017 race for Attorney General, was swift and forceful in his denunciation of Herring’s actions.
“This is another Washington-style overreach from a nakedly partisan Attorney General,” said Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle). “The Attorney General’s job is to faithfully interpret and enforce the law of the Commonwealth. Virginians who have concealed carry permits may lose the ability to protect themselves when traveling in 25 states. Instead of doing the job he was elected to do, Mark Herring continues to put the political goals of his liberal supporters ahead of sound legal judgement.”
Speaker of the House Bill Howell (R-Stafford) pledged immediate action to review Herring’s move, declaring, “The House of Delegates will immediately begin a careful review of the Attorney General’s findings.”
“Unfortunately, I have little doubt as to his true motivations,” continued Howell. “Despite promising to take politics out of the Attorney General’s office, Mark Herring consistently seeks to interpret and apply the law of the Commonwealth through the lens of his own personal, political opinions.”
Other Republican legislators weighed in as well.
“This is just the latest in a series of efforts by the McAuliffe administration to restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Virginians,” said Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge) in a statement to Bearing Drift. “Rest assured that conservatives in the House and Senate will fight back against this latest gun-grab, as well as the entire liberal agenda of the McAuliffe-Northam-Herring administration.”
House Republicans will be busy in the forthcoming legislative session fighting back against executive overreach by McAuliffe and Herring. This latest executive branch action follows an earlier executive order issued by Governor McAuliffe directing the implementation of gun-free zones in all buildings occupied, controlled, or maintained by the executive branch, ranging from Virginia’s DMV to its ABC stores. House Republicans have pledged to fight that executive action, as well.
“Just like the McAuliffe’s state-agency gun ban, this isn’t about public safety at all,” said VCDL president Philip Van Cleave. “It is about vindictively attacking CHP holders, paying back Bloomberg for campaign donations, and coddling criminals and terrorists.”
Make no mistake: Herring’s partisan political posturing is a wide-ranging infringement of the rights of Americans from across the nation which will make Virginians less safe at home and when traveling outside the Commonwealth. As a result of Herring’s actions, law-abiding visitors will find themselves disarmed and unable to defend themselves, as will Virginians traveling to the six states which will no longer honor Virginia’s concealed carry permits.
Herring has a long history of hostility towards concealed carry. While a state Senator, Herring voted against fellow Senator Mark Obenshain’s concealed carry privacy bill, which protected holders of concealed carry permits from having their personal information disclosed in connection with a Freedom of Information Act request. Herring also voted against restaurant carry for three years in a row, before that, too, finally passed as a result of Republican efforts.
Herring’s executive overreach will have an immediate impact on Virginia tourism and the jobs it creates. With gun owners from 25 states now facing barriers to visiting Virginia, tourism revenue will be expected to fall, particularly among industries and localities which cater to sportsmen and outdoorsmen for whom reciprocity factors into their travel plans.
Terry McAuliffe ran in 2013 promising a platform of “Putting Jobs First” – then, along with his running mates, proceeded to bring a new level of partisan politicization to Virginia’s executive branch.
Shortly after McAuliffe’s election, firearms manufacturer Beretta announced it had eliminated Virginia as a potential location for the relocation of its factory in Maryland. In their announcement, Beretta cited McAuliffe’s anti-Second Amendment rhetoric as the basis for their decision.
Herring’s unilateral action will also prompt an increase in the open carry of firearms across the Commonwealth, as that method of carry is not subject to the laws governing the possession of concealed weapons. Facing the choice to disarm, stay home, or carry openly, some gun owners will choose to carry openly.
In disarming law-abiding citizens who have passed background checks, Mark Herring’s nakedly partisan agenda undermines the safety and security of Virginians and those who visit the Commonwealth, while doing nothing to target armed criminals already in violation of Virginia’s gun laws. This Washington-style overreach is merely the latest action undertaken by Herring to politicize his office while ignoring the job he was elected to do. Rather than undertaking his constitutional duty to uphold Virginia’s laws and keep its residents safe, Herring’s latest action accomplishes precisely the opposite, putting politics ahead of safety and jobs.
Update: 6:20 PM
Virginia Senate Republican Caucus Co-Chair Mark Obenshain joined in the growing GOP denunciation of Herring’s pointless action, emphasizing the pure politics at play, noting that the course taken was baseless and unsupported by evidence.
“In his announcement, the Attorney General has not pointed to a single crime committed by an out-of-state concealed weapons permit holder legally carrying in Virginia under the reciprocity agreement; not one,” stated Obenshain. “Indeed, the State Police concede that they are not aware of any either. It is evident that this is nothing more than liberal window dressing and political payback for the millions of dollars former New York Mayor Bloomberg has pumped into the campaigns of Virginia Democrats, including that of the Attorney General, over the past two and a half years.”
Though Herring’s unilateral action constitutes a serious blow to Virginians’ Second Amendment rights, gun owners across the Commonwealth can breathe some relief knowing that, in Obenshain, they have a powerful pro-Second Amendment voice within Senate leadership.
Obenshain, who lost to Herring in 2013’s race for Attorney General by less than a thousand votes made the contrast between his position and Herring’s crystal clear. Had Virginians elected Mark Obenshain, reciprocity would likely be expanding, not artificially curtailed at the hands of Herring.
“I remember well the campaign promises made by Mark Herring as he ran for Attorney General,” concluded Obenshain. “He promised that he would take the politics out of the Attorney General’s office. The level of his insincerity rises to new heights with each passing month.”