VA ABC Goes Gun-Free Under McAuliffe, Privatization Resurrected as VCDL Fights

As the holidays approach and merrymaking awaits, gun owners across the Commonwealth will find themselves grinched as they shop for libations in Virginia’s newly gun-free ABC Stores.

Though all Virginia’s ABC Stores became gun-free following the implementation of Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Order 50, reports from across the Commonwealth indicate ABC’s retail locations have begun greeting patrons with McAuliffe’s gun-free zone signs within the last week.


McAuliffe’s Executive Order 50 (EO50) prohibits the open and concealed carry of firearms in all offices owned, leased, or controlled by Virginia’s executive branch agencies, which does include all ABC Stores across the Commonwealth, even though most residents view them as retail outlets unlike a DMV or social services office.

McAuliffe’s executive overreach appears to be unsupported by evidence. No instances of unlawful action by licensed carriers in ABC Stores could be located during a cursory search. Presumably, if firearm carry in ABC Stores were causing actual problems, the McAuliffe administration would have been more than forthcoming with examples in support of its position. Lacking any, it’s safe to assume that law-abiding citizens who passed a background check are indeed abiding by the law in these retail stores where alcohol is not consumed.

Like most ideologically-driven partisan assaults on the rights of law-abiding gun owners, such as Attorney General Mark Herring’s curtailment of concealed carry reciprocity with 25 states, McAuliffe’s action utterly lacks constructive purpose and does precisely nothing to make Virginians any safer.

On the contrary, declaring liquor stores to be gun-free zones only waves a red cape in front of firearm-packing felons, sending a clear message that Virginia’s liquor stores are open for robbery and will not offer any deterrent to attempts at violent banditry.

In rolling out the red carpet for liquor store robbers, McAuliffe’s executive overreach has directly made ABC’s patrons and employees less safe.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League, a state-specific gun rights group has already pledged to fight McAuliffe’s executive overreach in the Commonwealth’s upcoming 2016 legislative session.

“The Governor has overstepped his bounds and is creating law,” said VCDL President Philip Van Cleave, in a statement to Bearing Drift. “The General Assembly never created a statute to ban guns in state agency buildings, even though they could have done so countless times over the years.”

Grassroots opposition to EO50 as a whole will be a focal point of VCDL’s annual lobby day to be held at the Virginia Capitol on Monday, January 18th, 2016.

In cooperation with its legislative allies, VCDL is working to introduce legislation repealing EO50 in its entirety. According to Van Cleave, the repeal of EO50 will be a top priority for the VCDL in the upcoming session.

From a political standpoint, the application of EO50 to ABC Stores presents a politically unique stimulus capable of galvanizing efforts to overturn EO50, for unlike most governmental administrative offices, which Virginians visit rarely, ABC Stores are routinely visited by many adult Virginians of legal age to carry.

While knowledge of EO50’s impact on gun-free administrative offices currently remains limited mainly among those closely following gun rights issues, McAuliffe’s gun-free zone signs now appearing at Virginia ABC’s more than 350 retail locations are capable of engaging several orders of magnitude more gun rights supporters and inspiring a broader awareness of – and opposition to – McAuliffe’s anti-Second Amendment executive action.

As a day-to-day irritant, these signs will serve as an ongoing reminder of McAuliffe’s executive action as well as a call to action among Virginia’s gun owners.

While VCDL President Van Cleave stopped short of calling for a boycott of ABC, which he believes would be ineffective in persuading McAuliffe to reverse course, he did signal openness to the privatization of the Commonwealth’s statutory monopoly on the retail sale of distilled spirits if EO50 should fail to be overturned by the legislature and ABC Stores continue excluding Virginia’s law-abiding gun owners.

ABC privatization remains a politically thorny issue since it was last attempted and defeated in the early years of the McDonnell administration. The bipartisan opposition to privatization touches on a host of policy issues, ranging from finance, to public safety, to relations with Virginia’s business community.

Currently, support for privatization remains intense among a small nucleus of free market advocates. While broader public opinion is mixed, the public at large generally doesn’t place much weight upon the issue, outside of small groups on either side of the debate.

Should EO50 fail to be repealed, the addition of tens of thousands of gun rights proponents to the ranks of supporters of privatization could potentially provide the momentum necessary to reinvigorate a debate last held years ago.

Politics often makes for strange coalitions and alliances. In the coming months, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility for some moderate Democrats – particularly in key Senate seats – to come out in opposition to the Governor’s gun-free liquor stores, whether due to opposition to the safety risks associated with McAuliffe’s newly-minted robbery magnets, or as a result of their support for the state’s monopoly on retail liquor sales as well as the broader three-tier system as a whole.

For some, the path of least political resistance could well be forging a bipartisan compromise to neutralize the ABC issue, thus taking privatization and its various impacts off the table.

One thing remains for sure – the longer McAuliffe’s signs remain posted, the louder calls will grow from the gun rights community to do something about McAuliffe’s gun-free zones – even if gun rights supporters find themselves stepping outside of purely gun-oriented bills to support efforts at privatization which they believe will offer law-abiding adults of legal age the choice to purchase distilled spirits from retailers who value their business, rather than driving it away with gun-free zone signs.

As a day-to-day reminder of McAuliffe’s executive overreach, these signs will surely galvanize the gun rights community in the months ahead, with potential implications reaching beyond the gun laws of the Commonwealth.

In the meantime, Virginians must unfortunately witness more distressing scenes such as the following ABC robbery in Gate City, now that liquor store bandits know McAuliffe’s executive action has provided them with a safe zone in which to commit their crimes without the likelihood of resistance from law-abiding gun owners who obeyed the posted sign and left their guns at home.


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