The Virginia House of Delegates approved a bill Friday that would let victims of domestic violence carry concealed handguns before obtaining a permit.
Introduced by a group of Republican delegates, House Bill 1852 would allow people who have issued protective orders to carry concealed handguns as long as they have applied for a permit. They would be allowed to carry without a permit for 45 days, which is reportedly the maximum amount of time it takes for a permit application to process in Virginia.
Under current law, it is illegal to carry concealed firearms in Virginia without a permit, and lawmakers argue the amount time of time it takes for permits to process can be the difference between life and death for abuse victims.
Republican Del. Todd Gilbert, one of the bill’s sponsors, told the Northern Virginia Daily that the “essence of this is that we want to empower people, especially women, who find themselves in a position where they are in fear of their lives, to be able to protect themselves in a manner that they see fit.”
However, Democrat Del. Mark Levine was not as keen on the bill, expressing worries that the bill could unintentionally put the victims in even more dangerous situations.
“No one wants to protect victims of domestic violence more than I, but one of the things that people tell me that practice in this area is that, increasingly, the abusers are seeking to muck with the system, are seeking to seek protective orders,” Levine said. “The judge issues the protective order, and then, even if it’s prohibited under federal law … the clerk simply sees the order and the guy can now concealed carry and can do a lot of damage.”
Gilbert rebutted Levine’s argument by stating that the bill would not give power to the abusers, but would empower their victims instead.
Republican Del. Rob Bell, another supporter of the bill, argued it was not the government’s role to define how people can protect themselves.
“What’s extraordinary about the opposition to this bill is the condescension,” Bell said. “All we’re doing is trying to give some women the liberty to use a concealed carry when they get their protective order.”
After passing on a 64-31 vote in the House of Delegates on Friday, the bill now heads to the Senate for further debate. A companion bill, Senate Bill 1299, has already passed out of the Senate and now heads to the House.