Virginia lawmakers reached a bipartisan deal on Friday that would rescind the attorney general’s decision to stop honoring permits for concealed weapons issued by 25 states in exchange for concessions from Republican supporters of gun ownership rights.
The move last month to undo reciprocity agreements with more than two dozen states with requirements that fall short of Virginia's infuriated many gun-rights advocates, who argued it infringed the constitutional rights of gun owners.
In return for reinstating the agreements, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the leaders of the Republican-dominated legislature had agreed to a requirement to make state police available for voluntary background checks for private sales at all gun shows.
The issue of gun control has become heated in recent years after a series of mass shootings at schools, shopping malls and other public venues across the country. Advocates of tighter controls say the government must do more to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, while opponents say new restrictions would violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Of 77 firearms shows in Virginia last year, state police were present to run voluntary checks at only 42, the governor said. McAuliffe, who supports tighter gun control, pledged to make more money available to expand police background check efforts.
He said expanding background checks had always been his primary issue in gun control legislation.
The bipartisan compromise would also prohibit individuals with permanent protective orders from possessing a firearm. McAuliffe said it was an effort to remove guns from domestic violence situations.
The proposal had previously been a non-starter among Republicans.
"The measures we announce here today will save lives,” McAuliffe said, emphasizing that the compromise struck a balance between public safety and individual rights.
In a prepared statement, Democratic Attorney General Mark R. Herring expressed approval but he did not attend the press conference at the state Capitol announcing the deal.
"I’m encouraged to finally see a bipartisan conversation about how we can reduce gun violence and keep guns away from dangerous individuals,” Herring said.
He added that the measure of success for the agreement, when it finally emerges from the legislative process, is whether it makes Virginians safer.
William J. Howell, the powerful Republican speaker of the House of Delegates, said the agreement was not about who won and who lost.
“Virginia won, and that’s all there is to it,” Howell said, standing behind a podium flanked by Republican and Democratic lawmakers as well as representatives from domestic violence groups.
(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Frank McGurty and James Dalgleish)