Virginia will no longer recognize concealed-carry handgun permits from 25 states that have reciprocity agreements with the state, effective Feb. 1, Attorney General Mark Herring said on Tuesday.
Virginia, home to the National Rifle Association, took the step because laws in those states are less restrictive, Herring's office said in a statement.
Concealed permit rules approved by Virginia lawmakers "should not be undermined by wrongly recognizing permits from other states with more permissive standards," said Herring, a Democrat.
“We hear that we don’t need new gun laws, we just need to enforce the ones we have,” Mr. Herring told the New York Times, echoing the argument of the gun rights movement. “Well, I’m going to be enforcing the ones we have.”
Herring’s move comes at the end of a year marked by more than 350 mass shootings with three incidents other than the shooting of 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2 resulting in nine or more deaths: a Roseburg, Oregon shooting on Oct. 1; a Charleston, South Carolina shooting on June 17; and a Waco, Texas shooting on May 17.
In Virginia, the site of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history — the 2007 rampage at Virginia Tech that left 32 people dead — two TV journalists, were shot during a live interview on Aug. 26.
President Barack Obama reacted to the Oregon shooting by saying “Somehow this has become routine. ... We have become numb to this."
He then tasked White House lawyers to find new ways he could use his executive powers to address the issue. That review is ongoing.
Chris Cox, executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action at the NRA, responded to Virginia’s move by saying permit holders were among the safest groups of people in the United States.
"Plain and simple, this is putting politics above public safety. This decision is both dangerous and shameful," he said in a statement.
The change in Virginia prevents people convicted of a felony, domestic abusers, those adjudicated mentally ill or incompetent, recently convicted drunk drivers and dishonorably discharged military personnel from using a permit from the 25 states in Virginia.
“This has been where the gun violence prevention movement is going,” Chelsea Parsons, vice president of guns and crime policy at the liberal Center for American Progress told the Washington Post. “In much the same way President Obama said I’m not going to wait for Congress anymore, the same can be said for leaders at the state level to really use their authority to take strong meaningful steps on this issue.”
Al Jazeera with Reuters