Gun Rights

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe Does Gun Rights a Favor

Some of his measures have had the unintended consequence of strengthening gun rights

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The National Rifle Association gave Terry McAuliffe an F when he ran for governor in 2013. McAuliffe said he didn't care, and if anything he seemed proud of the grade. But lately he has been taking steps that might make supporters of gun rights think better of him.

The governor already took one last year, when he hammered out a deal with Republicans in the General Assembly. They were furious at Attorney General Mark Herring, who had canceled reciprocity agreements with other states that recognized their concealed-carry permits. The deal with the governor reinstated such recognition. In return, it required the State Police to be on hand at gun shows to offer background checks, and it required individuals subject to protective orders to surrender their weapons.

Progressives thought they got the short end of the stick. So despite the governor's earlier decision to prohibit civilian bearing of arms in executive-branch offices, Everytown for Gun Safety, which has given millions to support Democrats in Virginia, took out a full-page ad to denounce McAuliffe and his deal.

Four months later, the governor grandly announced that he was restoring the voting rights of 206,000 felons. Republican heads exploded, and the ensuing debate eventually had to be settled by the Virginia Supreme Court, which struck down McAuliffe's order, requiring him to continue making restorations on a case-by-case basis.

In the meantime, though, a question arose: What about gun rights? Although McAuliffe's order stipulated that "nothing in this Order restores the right to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms," the governor's order made it much easier for a felon to get his gun rights back. Formerly, an offender first had to petition for restoration of his civil rights, and once they were restored, go to court to retrieve his gun rights. McAuliffe's order eliminated the first step.

That was purely unintentional. "My actions were about giving you the right to vote, to serve on a jury and run for political office," McAuliffe admitted. "My action, I didn't think it had anything to do with gun rights. I stayed away from that."

Since the Supreme Court decision, the governor has continued to restore felons' rights on an individual basis; he's up to 140,000 now. And lawmakers are introducing bills to make the process automatic. Along similar lines, Republican Del. Greg Habeeb has introduced a measure to automatically restore gun rights to nonviolent felons.

Anybody who supports restoring voting rights will be hard-pressed to produce a persuasive argument against Habeeb's bill. Both voting and gun ownership are constitutionally protected, fundamental rights. The rationales that support restoring voting rights (e.g., the offender has paid his debt in full, African-Americans are disproportionately affected, the restriction has a sordid racial history, and so forth) apply with equal force to restoring gun rights.

As McAuliffe himself said, "These individuals have completed their sentences. . . . You can't be a second-class citizen. Once you've paid your time, there's no difference to me. We want you back. We want you to be a productive member of society."

Just so. But you can't be a first-class citizen if you are prohibited from owning firearms like everyone else.

This session, the governor has proposed a commendable criminal-justice reform package. It includes a badly needed adjustment to the state's standard for felony grand larceny. The figure was set at $200 in 1980, and has not been changed since. Had the threshold kept pace with inflation, it would be more than $500 today.

Critics call the proposal a cost-of-living adjustment for thieves, which is clever but misleading. Pegging the standard to inflation keeps it constant in real-value terms. Failing to adjust for inflation actually lowers the threshold in constant dollars. Today's $200 threshold is the equivalent of only $68 in 1980 dollars. Twenty years from now, assuming only 2.5 percent inflation, the threshold will fall to only $42 in 1980 dollars. (Assuming 5 percent inflation, it would fall to only $25 in 1980 dollars.)

Adjusting the felony standard does not allow criminals to steal more; refusing to adjust it makes a felony out of ever-smaller offenses. That gets expensive fast. Virginia spends about $25,000 year per prison inmate, so a 20-year stretch for felony theft costs the state half a million dollars. Does the public really benefit from lowering the felony ceiling year after year? Do Virginians want to spend a half-million dollars to punish someone for boosting a mid-range kitchen blender from Target?

Probably not. So adjusting the felony threshold make sense. And it carries an ancillary benefit: protecting the voting rights — and the gun rights — of nonviolent offenders who otherwise would be swept up by "felony creep."

Gov. McAuliffe probably did not intend that result of his proposal. But as he already has learned, sometimes the most powerful law is the one about unintended consequences.

This column originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. In other news, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has learned that there is an entire state outside of NoVa and Richmond that doesn’t agree with him.

    1. You must mean West Virginia, right?

      1. Despite being the butt of many jokes about how backwards its people were, WV was a Democrat stronghold up until very recently. It’s a little odd to me that nobody (in the mainstream) is acknowledging that there is an ongoing shift in political tendencies.

        1. ” a little odd to me that nobody (in the mainstream) is acknowledging that there is an ongoing shift in political tendencies.”

          I think that this has been acknowledged for a while, since at least the 70s with Nixon’s southern strategy, that former dem strongholds were now voting R. WV was a holdout thanks to unionized coal miners I assume. But when the coastal elites who control the party decided to take a huge shit on coal (and unions) with NAFTA , they lost WV too.

          It will be interesting to see if inner city dems in places like Baltimore and Detroit also abandon the party in the next 10-20 years once they realize that team blue is not serving their interests either.

          1. I guess you could say WV just came late to the party, but it still seems evident that their reasons for going from blue to red in the 2000s were different from the reasons why states went that way in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s.

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  2. “The deal with the governor reinstated such recognition. In return, it required the State Police to be on hand at gun shows to offer background checks, and it required individuals subject to protective orders to surrender their weapons.”

    If that’s what you have to give up for reinstating reciprocity agreements, then they can shove the reciprocity agreements.

    What’s the standard for a judge granting a protective order anyway? I’m sure it isn’t “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

    Do they just give protection orders out to anyone who asks for one?

    Subjecting someone to a protective order might violate their First Amendment free speech rights–to talk to one person–but they leave the subject of the protection order free to speak to everyone else in the world.

    On the other hand, depriving someone of their Second Amendment rights on the strength of a protection order deprives them of their Second Amendment rights entirely. If you want to strip someone of their rights entirely, they have a right to a jury, the right to confront the witnesses against them, you know–all that Fifth Amendment stuff.

    1. Do they just give protection orders out to anyone who asks for one?

      Yes. The standard is that the person making the complaint (99.9% of the time a woman) feels afraid. That’s it.

      1. I guess that’s what passes for due process these days?

        Depriving someone of their Second Amendment rights on that basis can’t be constitutional.

        This is not a victory for gun rights.

        If I were an anti-gun rights activist, I might get my fellow travelers to go around targeting gun nuts and asking a judge for a protective order against them–just to make them surrender their guns.

        . . . just like gay rights activists go around ordering wedding cakes from bakers they know to be fundamentalist Christians.

        1. Imma say that the NRA-ILA is waiting in ambush mode for a good case of this to pop-up and use it to break it off in McAulliffe’s ass.

      2. oh guys can’t get those either even with wife’s making false claims (like battery/rape on paper and disseminating them), stealing husbands identities, and more even though the law says that is what they are there for to prevent such actions in IL.

        protection orders are also used to protect someones livelihood in the financial situation too if the spouse is steal money running up dead and making false claims but if your a dude….good luck.

        Also don’t expect Class 2/1/X felonies to matter to cops or divorce judges caring about damages because said damages are gifts…..FML

        1. oh also spoliation of evidence and more. Doesn’t matter if a woman does it. It is okay. :/

          You can have the persons signature on false contracts, 2 witnesses, electronic logs, and electronic logs of deleting evidence for court and judges/police laugh and tell you to fuck off.

          White male privilege i guess.

    2. Yea if my ex wife had a protective order against me (though she didnt even though she was a vindictive cunt) I would never turn of any weapons.

      Protective orders are horrible things that can be given out like candy if a judge feels like it though judges do have seemingly some resistance to using them.

    3. Some of us wondered if that was the whole point–try to destroy reciprocity, then offer not to anymore in exchange for a “compromise” or two.

    4. I hear ya, Ken. If it was only state cops “offering” voluntary background checks at gun shows, I’d be fine. But stripping 2A rights and seizing property based on an uncontested court order? Lets hope this gets challenged and struck down, chop chop.

      1. LOL. For a lawyer, you seem blissfully unaware that Federal law already prohibits targets of an order of protection from possessing guns.

    5. If that’s what you have to give up for reinstating reciprocity agreements, then they can shove the reciprocity agreements.

      It really was not much. It was already illegal, under Federal law, to continue to possess firearms after having a protection order against you by your domestic partner, cohabitant, etc. This just makes it illegal under state law as well so that it can be enforced by local and state police.

      The gun grabbers were massively pissed when the compromise went through, if that’s any indication.

  3. “Since the [Virginia] Supreme Court decision, the governor has continued to restore felons’ rights on an individual basis; he’s up to 140,000 now.”

    AIDE: Oof, here you go, Mr. Governor, the latest stack of pardon petitions. [dumps them on desk.] I’ll go and get some more.

    GOVERNOR: Great, let’s get to work. [Picks up first application, holds it against his head] Magic individualized-consideration powers, activate! Looks like this one’s qualified to vote. [Puts application on table, rubber-stamps it PARDONED. Takes up next application, holds it against his head] Magic individualized-consideration powers, activate!

    [etc.]

    1. It’s blatant lawlessness.

  4. Fortunately, McAuliffe has had his hands tied by the GOP legislature, so the progs are now pushing for redistricting that would favor NoVa and other areas that would give them a majority.

    1. How many GOP legislators will agree to the redistricting because “bipartisanship”? I wonder how the California GOP is feeling about the “top-two primary” system they pushed for, now that it has (predictably) resulted in a statewide race with nothing but Democrats on the ballot?

      1. I think the Va dems have filed a lawsuit to require redistricting be done by an independent commission, because they know it will go nowhere otherwise.

      2. Did the California GOP support top two at any point? If so, they are idiots.

        1. According to EscherEnigma, it was a GOP-led effort and enjoyed bipartisan support. I have not verified that claim.

        2. The ballot initiative was written by Abel Maldonado (who Trump has considered for secretary of agriculture). The state GOP itself HATED the measure, but it was written by a sitting GOP state senator.

  5. Moving to Richmond soon. I look forward to voting against him.

    1. You won’t be able to, Va governors are limited to a single term. The dems who will be running though are all at least as bad as McAuliffe, if not worse.

      1. I’m guessing he thought he’d have a new job by now.

        These idiots have me thinking about actually voting for Trump in 2020.

        1. Unless he blows it bigtime, Trump will most likely be re-elected-he might even win Virginia in 2020. Expectations of him are pretty low and everyone will get tired of the media and dems comparing him to the antichrist (they already are).

          1. If the mythical christ is any example, the antichrist never wrote anything nor was recorded as extant by his cohort–or anyone else for a century and a half. Trump publishes stuff and has endorsements from tea-party televangelists ranging from Bakker types to Jan Crouch, David Jeremiah, the Coplands, Paula White and the Jimmy Swaggart dynasty. Getting traction with that particular hobgoblin is going to be a muddy uphill road. The “WINNING” voters chose asset-forfeiture prohibitionism run by faith-based Christian National Socialists just like in Germany. It will be as fun to watch them hang separately as together.

          2. If the mythical christ is any example, the antichrist never wrote anything nor was recorded as extant by his cohort–or anyone else for a century and a half. Trump publishes stuff and has endorsements from tea-party televangelists ranging from Bakker types to Jan Crouch, David Jeremiah, the Coplands, Paula White and the Jimmy Swaggart dynasty. Getting traction with that particular hobgoblin is going to be a muddy uphill road. The “WINNING” voters chose asset-forfeiture prohibitionism run by faith-based Christian National Socialists just like in Germany. It will be as fun to watch them hang separately as together.

          3. Reason has been damning Trump as a ‘crony capitalist’. What they miss is that Trump’s cronies are likely to be of considerably more use to the economy than Obama’s Short list of ‘Green’ technology scam artists.

            A lot of Trump’s ideas are wrong on an absolute scale. But I suspect that many of them will represent an improvement on Obama’s policies.

            I don’t expect a,great deal from Trump, but I’ll be surprised if he can’t get a better economic picture going, at least in the short term.

    2. He can’t run for governor in 2017.

  6. The rationales that support restoring voting rights (e.g., the offender has paid his debt in full, African-Americans are disproportionately affected, the restriction has a sordid racial history, and so forth) apply with equal force to restoring gun rights.

    You wanna see heads explode? Tell a “liberal” that demanding ID for conceal carry is racist [for the same reasons demanding it to vote are].

    1. I’m going to remember that!

    2. You don’t have to stop at concealed carry. Try this one next time:

      You: So voting is a constitutionally protected right, correct?
      Prog: Of course!
      You: Which means that requiring ID to vote is unconstitutional?
      Prog:*Some bullshit word salad about racism*
      You: Okay then, doesn’t that mean that requiring an ID and a background check when buying a gun is also unconstitutional? I mean, you can’t vote if you’re a felon either so shouldn’t they do background checks before you can vote?
      Prog:*angry ranting and personal insults*

  7. Twenty years from now, assuming only 2.5 percent inflation, the threshold will fall to only $42 in 1980 dollars. (Assuming 5 percent inflation, it would fall to only $25 in 1980 dollars.)

    A felony should still be pegged at the price of a Chocolate bar in 1943! When America was great!

  8. Reciprocity agreements which they already had and were canceled were restored in exchange for something they already had and now have lost and will not get back. That’s not a good deal, not at all.

  9. I wouldn’t praise Terry McAuliffe if he rescued an orphan from a tiger. I’d have to Purell my whole body after shaking his hand.

  10. I wonder whether “felon” in Virginia means teenage pothead peacenik, chainsaw murderer, abortion clinic strafing-cop killer, and how many of each.

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  12. “Both voting and gun ownership are constitutionally protected, fundamental rights”
    Oh yeah?
    Then how come one requires hundred of dollars in expenses for classes I am qualified to TEACH, many more dollars for fees and licenses, and renewal, but asking for a free id card is a horrible repression of the other ?
    I really enjoy watching the deer in the headlights look when I suggest a concealed carry permit be required to vote.

  13. A question arises about non violent felons after they have been released/paroled/pardoned! How many or what percentage go on to use a firearm in a criminal act and are apprehended and charged? If it is a very low rate then certainly giving them the right to own a firearm makes sense. but if a high rate, then, I say it should be looked at further!

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  19. Restoring firearms Rights and Voting Rights should be a matter of petition, on a one by one basis after Judicial review. Once again the blindly ideological nature of people who call themselves libertarians is displayed, and is no less insane than Scientology, Islam, Christianinty of Voodoo.
    There is very little reason at Reason

  20. Restoring firearms Rights and Voting Rights should be a matter of petition, on a one by one basis after Judicial review. Once again the blindly ideological nature of people who call themselves libertarians is displayed, and is no less insane than Scientology, Islam, Christianinty of Voodoo.
    There is very little reason at Reason

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