Gov. Terry McAuliffe has been under pressure to explain a compromise he made to win bipartisan support for some reforms in Virginia’s gun laws.
Last December, the governor backed Attorney General Mark Herring’s decision to revoke Virginia’s recognition of permits to carry concealed weapons issued by 25 states. Herring, a Democrat, said the requirements to get a concealed carry permit in those states did not meet Virginia’s standards.
In January, however, the governor announced he had abandoned his support for the concealed permit crackdown in exchange for bipartisan pledges to back bills that would confiscate guns from anyone who was under a two-year protective order for domestic violence offenses and would require the state police to be on hand at all gun shows to provide optional background checks for private sellers.
McAuliffe has been under heavy criticism from gun-control groups for making the compromise. But the governor has said it was a logical decision to give up the concealed carry issue in exchange for other reforms.
"In Virginia history, in the last 24 years, there has not been one instance of an individual with a concealed carry (permit) who has come into Virginia and harmed a Virginian," McAuliffe told WJLA-TV’s Bruce DePuyt in a Feb. 1 interview with the Washington station.
We reached out to law-enforcement officials to see whether that’s correct.
But we ran into a roadblock that kept us from putting this claim to the Truth-O-Meter: Law-enforcement officials told us they don’t collect figures on Virginia crimes committed by people holding out-of-state permits to carry concealed weapons.
Corinne Geller, public relations manager for the state police, told us that because her agency doesn’t track crimes that way, she can’t say whether the governor is correct.
"That is not a datapoint collected by State Police," Geller wrote to us in an email. "There is no record of data available."
We got a similar take from Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Chiefs of Police Association.
"We don’t necessarily have a means to, on a statewide basis, track whether or not those people (out-of-state criminals) were here under a concealed weapons permit," Schrad told us.
"You’d have to really look, on a case-by-case basis, and see people who were convicted in Virginia who came in here from out of state and committed a crime, and whether or not they were carrying a concealed weapons permit. And that, honestly, may not even be in the court record."
Bryan Porter, the Alexandria commonwealth’s attorney, told us in an email that he’s never heard of a case where a non-Virginia concealed permit holder has come into the state and hurt someone. But he added a caveat:
"However, if one had ever happened, it probably would not have been noticed. If someone with a permit from another state came here and committed a shooting, for example, whether or not they had a permit would not matter to the prosecution and would not be tracked/reported," Porter wrote in an email.
The bottom line, Porter said, is "I don't know of any examples, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's never happened. There is no database, for example, that tracks such things."
We asked Christina Nuckols, a McAuliffe spokeswoman, for anything that would support his claim. She couldn’t direct us to any hard figures and noted that the state police don’t keep such records.
Nuckols pointed us to a Feb. 14 op-ed in the Roanoke Times written by John W. Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association. Jones wrote that in his nearly four decades representing the association, he’s never heard of a case where anyone having a legal non-Virginia concealed carry permit has caused a public safety threat.
Jones, in an interview with us, reiterated that point.
Still, Jones qualified that notion, adding, "I’m not saying that it hasn’t happened."
Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s comments on ABC 7, Feb. 1, 2016. (His statement is at just over 4:30 into the video).
Interviews with Christina Nuckols, spokeswoman for Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Feb. 10-12, 2016.
Emails from Christina Nuckols, Feb. 10-12. 2016.
Email from Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, Feb. 10, 2016.
Interview with John. W. Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriff’s Association, Feb. 10. 2016.
Voice mail message from Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Chiefs of Police Association, Feb. 10, 2016.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Governor, GOP call gun deal a victory," Jan. 30, 2016.
Attorney General Mark Herring, "Attorney General Herring and Virginia State Police complete audit of concealed handgun permit recognition," Dec. 22, 2015.
Associated Press, "Virginia: Out of state concealed gun permits rejected," Dec. 22, 2016.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "House committee advances compromise on handguns," Feb. 6, 2016.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Virginia looks west for concealed handgun permits," Jan. 8, 2016.
The Washington Post, "Virginia to stop recognizing concealed carry gun permits from 25 states," Dec. 22, 2015.
The Washington Post, "Va. will again recognize concealed carry permits from other states," Jan. 28, 2016.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Virginia changing policy on out of state concealed gun permits," Dec. 22, 2015.
Interview with Michael Kelly, spokesman for Attorney General Mark Herring, Feb. 12, 2016.
Email from Michael Kelly, Feb. 12, 2016.
Email from Bryan Porter, Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney, Feb. 12, 2016.
Virginia State Police, "Reciprocity and recognition," accessed Feb. 12, 2016
Legislative Information System, H.B. 1163, accessed Feb. 12, 2016.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Ad slams McAuliffe on gun compromise," Feb. 10, 2016.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Fort Lee soldier with concealed carry permit pleads guilty to brandishing gun," Nov. 4, 2011.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "McAuliffe dismisses threat to cut guards," Dec. 29, 2015.