Virginia governor vetoes 3 pro-gun bills; 1 protecting domestic violence victims

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) gave thumbs down Thursday to three pieces of legislation he said would threaten public safety by weakening Virginia’s gun laws.

Among the proposals scuttled, two, SB 626 and HB 766, would have enabled domestic violence victims with a protective order against another individual to carry a concealed handgun for up to 90 days without a permit, while the third, HB 560, would have eased the Commonwealth’s law on the accidental display of a weapon.

In a veto message to lawmakers, McAuliffe held up a compromise deal he made with state Republicans in February which included taking guns away from domestic abusers as reason to veto the new legislation seeking to speed up the process to allow victims to carry a legal firearm.

“Domestic violence situations can be extremely volatile, and all too often result in serious injury or death,” said McAuliffe. “Senate Bill 626 (and House Bill 766) encourages victims of domestic violence to introduce deadly weapons into an already dangerous situation, an approach that I believe could have significant negative public safety consequences.”

Backers of the proposal felt allowing the option for a protective order to be used temporarily in lieu of a concealed carry permit felt just the opposite.

“It’s at that moment of crisis where you’ve had this protective order issued where the danger really lies, so at that moment somebody really shouldn’t have to wait in line at the courthouse to protect themselves,” said the House bill’s sponsor, Republican Del. Todd Gilbert, a former prosecutor.

The third vetoed bill, HB 560, would require that a person displaying a firearm must have intent to induce fear in order to be convicted of brandishing. Current state law does not include intent as an element to show that a crime has occurred. Sponsors of the measure argued it would decrease incidents of those accidentally uncovering a weapon being prosecuted.

McAuliffe disagreed.

“Pointing, holding, or brandishing a firearm in a manner that induces fear in the mind of another person is irresponsible and dangerous behavior and should be appropriately addressed within our criminal justice system,” contended the Governor. “Because current law provides clear guidelines for our law enforcement personnel without creating unintended consequences that could lead to unsuccessful prosecutions, House Bill 560 is unnecessary.”

HB 560 was sponsored by Republican Del. Scott Lingamfelter, who noted on social media that, “Sadly the Governor caved into the anti-gun lobby to throw them a political bone.”

Lingamfelter was also the author of a bill vetoed by the Governor earlier this week that would have allowed retired law enforcement officers employed as private security guards carry firearms on school campuses they were hired to protect. The lawmaker had strong words over McAuliffe’s action on that proposal.

“This is the sort of veto that’s done in indelible ink because one day — sadly after a tragedy — people will look back and remember this veto and say, ‘We should have put that bill in law,’” said Lingamfelter. “This was a bill that had all the right prudent persuasions and it died a political death. Let’s hope no more deaths will be tied to this veto, but I fear more will.”