Yesterday, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted overwhelmingly in support of two so-called “gun rights” bills.
HB 2029, by Delegate Tony Wilt (R), actually was a mixed bag, part of which would finally bring the background check for obtaining a Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP) in the Commonwealth into line with the background check that citizens need to pass in order to purchase their handgun in the first place. For too long, the existing system has relied on a less thorough background check for permit applicants, thus creating a crazy paradox whereby some people, whom the Commonwealth deemed worthy of carrying a loaded and hidden handgun almost anywhere in Virginia, were actually not allowed by law to own that gun in the first place!
If the bill ended there, then there would be no real problem, but NO! Instead, Delegate Wilt’s real purpose with this bill was to then allow permit holders to buy as many guns as they want, from a federally licensed dealer, without having to be subjected to that “onerous” instant background check. Sounds fair you might think, but not if you look a little deeper.
Permits last for five years and a lot can happen to a person in five years. Each year, hundreds of permits are revoked by the Virginia State Police (VSP) for various reasons, including felony convictions, mental health adjudications and restraining orders etc. Although VSP can inform the local courts, which issued the permits, of the fact that the bearer is no longer entitled to possess the permit, there is no statutory language that requires the courts to actually physically remove the permits from the now disqualified individuals. So, in theory at least, anyone who still has a paper permit would be able to buy guns for the remainder of the life of that permit without a background check, which they would have failed due to the condition that caused their permit to be revoked, had it been required.
The CHP holders would still have to fill out the same Federal background check form as everyone else, but they would not need to complete the Virginia form and (of course) not wait a few minutes for the check to be run. This would require a little less effort on behalf of permit holders, but what price are we willing to pay as a Commonwealth to allow a few people to avoid filling out a single simple form? Must we now allow some people, with no legal right to own guns, to buy them unchecked from licensed dealers in the same way that we allow them to do from unlicensed sellers? So much for public safety!
Another bill — HB 1329 by Delegate Lee Ware (R) — would force Virginia to allow individuals from all the other states to carry concealed handguns in Virginia, regardless of whether or not a reciprocity agreement exists with that state and regardless of the level of standards and qualifications needed to obtain a permit in that state. In addition, Virginia police would no longer be able to verify if a permit shown to them was still valid, but would simply have to accept the permit at face value, providing the holder had some form of government issued photo ID.
Newsflash: criminals have government-issued photo ID’s like driving licenses etc. So, this bill would require that Virginia afford the privilege of carrying a concealed handgun to anyone with a permit from another state, even if that person would be denied that privilege were they a Commonwealth citizen.
It may seem odd that the GOP-controlled House and Senate would be so concerned with enhancing the concealed-carry privileges of people from other states, but the beauty of this bill will not be fully appreciated until next session, when the other shoe drops. It is no secret that the pro-gun lobby believes that the ability to carry a concealed weapon in public is not a privilege, granted to certain reliable individuals subject to their meeting certain minimum standards of character and behavior, but a “God-given Right” for all Americans. They even go so far as to imply that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to carry concealed weapons by its very language.
Oddly enough, there are many people, the majority of the Supreme Court for example, that don’t quite see it that way. In fact SCOTUS has ruled quite definitively that regulations governing the concealed carry of weapons are entirely constitutional, which negates the idea of a fundamental right to do so. Read the words of the Second Amendment and you will see that any reference to concealed carry is as well-“concealed” as the gun lobby wants their guns to be.
Despite years of successfully chipping away at the Concealed Carry laws in Virginia, the gun lobby’s supporters in the General Assembly still have not been able to weaken them enough to call for a total repeal – yet! What better argument could there be for repeal in 2016, however, than to point out that millions of people from other states are now allowed to carry concealed handguns in Virginia, who would not be allowed that privilege if they lived here? Wouldn’t that be a powerful argument for doing away with that pesky permitting process all together? Wouldn’t it seem only fair to let any Virginian who wants to, carry any weapon they so choose, hidden carefully under their clothing – just as (we are told) GOD intended?
Do these bills really represent a “victory for gun rights” or are they just another power grab by the gun industry sock puppets whose sole aim is to pander to the fearmongers and therefore increase gun sales? You decide!