Virginia Gets Slightly More Sensible on Guns

Careful with that in Virginia.

Photographer: George Frey/Getty Images

Virginia has long been a source of guns used in crimes in other states. Of the 5,000-plus firearms recovered in Maryland in 2014, for example, more than 500 came from its neighbor with looser gun regulations.

So it's encouraging that Virginia is getting stricter about enforcing its own gun laws. Starting in February, the state will end its reciprocity agreements with any state that doesn't meet Virginia's standards for concealed-carry permits.

For instance, a Virginian convicted of stalking, or who is facing charges of stalking, is not allowed such a permit. Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, sensibly wants to apply this law -- much like Virginia's laws about, say, speeding -- to out-of-staters. Thus concealed-carry permits from 25 other states, many of which are easily obtained, will no longer be valid in Virginia. Likewise, Virginians will no longer be able to use their concealed-carry permits in six states that require reciprocity.

QuickTake Guns in America

Concealed-carry laws swept the nation on a recent wave of support for gun rights. But there's no compelling evidence that they make anyone safer. The concealed-carry movement's more extreme sibling, open carry, has even less to recommend it. In October, a Colorado woman called 911 after seeing her neighbor carrying a rifle. The police dispatcher informed her that under the state's open-carry laws, his conduct was legal. Minutes later, the neighbor went on a shooting spree, murdering three before being killed by police.

Both concealed carry and open carry are ideological movements, not strategies for public safety. Not that Virginia's refusal to recognize the most lax concealed-carry regulations of 25 other states qualifies as a comprehensive strategy; it's only a small step.

Nevertheless, it's always worth making even a modest effort to reassess hastily adopted laws with no evidence to support them. If opponents of Virginia's new policy disagree, perhaps they should help end the federal ban on gun violence research and put their convictions to the test.

To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net.