RICHMOND, Va. – The House of Delegates approved a bill Friday that would allow victims of domestic violence access to concealed handguns before being approved for a permit.
HB 1852 would allow people with protective orders to carry a concealed handgun as long as they apply for a permit.
The bill was introduced by a Republican coalition of delegates including Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah County, Nick Freitas of Culpeper, Rick Morris of Suffolk County, Ron Villanueva of Virginia Beach and Michael Webert of Fauquier County.
Under current Virginia law, it is illegal to carry concealed handguns until a permit is granted – a process that can take up to 45 days after the application is filed.
Gilbert said that, for victims of abuse, that time can be the difference between life and death.
The bill would allow those with protective orders to carry a concealed handgun for up to 45 days without a permit as long as they have applied for one. Gilbert said this would give victims of abuse a means to defend themselves from their attackers.
“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,” he said.
However, Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, argued that the bill would have unintended consequences that could put victims in even greater danger.
“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 responded by stating the bill would do little to empower those already set on violence.
“There is this constant fallacy that we see from the anti-gun side of the aisle that people will be deterred by some new misdemeanor or some new rule or some new sign up at one of our state buildings that says, ‘No guns allowed if you mean to do mass murder in here,’” Gilbert said. He added that the bill is “not going to empower those who mean to do other people harm; it’s going to empower people against those who are going to do that very harm.”
Levine argued that the mere presence of a firearm in a domestic violence dispute could lead to disaster for victims.
“I should also note that guns are not the answer to these domestic violence situations,” Levine said. “Studies show that a gun in the home increases the risk of death by 500 percent. Five times. Part of the reason, I think, is that people, particularly women in these situations, are less likely to use guns against someone they love than a stranger. So, unfortunately, they’re often used against themselves.”
Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, said it wasn’t a politician’s place to tell victims how they can or cannot 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.
“Now, let’s assume (Del. Levine) is right and that it’s not right for many – maybe even most – maybe 80 percent would not want it, don’t need it, shouldn’t have it. That leaves a huge percentage of women who are saying, ‘Please, let me do it.’ And, with respect, some people are saying, ‘Now listen little lady, we know better than you what’s right for you.’”
Gilbert introduced similar legislation last year that would have allowed victims of domestic violence to receive a concealed handgun permit without the required training. That iteration passed both chambers before it was vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe last spring.
HB 1852 was passed by a 64-31 vote on the House floor Friday and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.