One month ago, Virginia became a sudden and shining example of progress for the gun-control movement. The state’s Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, announced that Virginia would no longer recognize concealed-carry permits of firearms owners in the 25 states with laxer gun laws than its own. The National Rifle Association promptly called his decision “the biggest setback” that gun owners had suffered politically in all of 2015.
On Friday, the state reversed itself. As part of a bipartisan agreement with Republican legislators, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia would keep granting reciprocity to out-of-state gun owners, so long as they had not been specifically denied a permit in Virginia. (The ban was to have taken effect next week.) In exchange, GOP leaders agreed to change state laws to prevent domestic abusers from possessing guns and to make it harder for private dealing from skipping a background check when selling at state gun shows. A beaming McAuliffe declared the accord a potentially life-saving victory for Virginia and the most significant bipartisan deal on gun laws in a generation.
Yet gun-control advocates were enraged, accusing the Democratic governor of a betrayal that gives up a hard-fought victory by ending reciprocity rights for concealed-carry permit holders. “This deal is a dangerous rollback that puts public safety at risk,” wrote a group of Virginians who either survived gun violence or saw family members struck down by it. “It’s practically a giveaway.” The letter was organized by Everytown for Gun Safety, the advocacy group funded in large part by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.