A bill to allow Virginians to carry a concealed weapon without a permit advanced Wednesday in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.
The discussion may be symbolic, however, because an official from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration opposed the bill.
Sen. Richard H. Black, R-Loudoun, is sponsoring Senate Bill 1440.
In Virginia, he noted, you can strap a gun on your hip without a permit. So people who want to carry a concealed gun should be free to do so without a permit, too, he said. Gun-rights advocates call the bill “constitutional carry,” but opponents pointed out that the Constitution does allow concealed weapon permits.
If Black’s proposal were to become law it wouldn’t end concealed weapon permits. Those who wanted to travel to another state that recognizes Virginia’s concealed weapons permits would still need one.
Brian J. Moran, Virginia’s secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, told the Senate committee the McAuliffe administration opposes the bill.
The committee approved the bill on a voice vote. It now goes to the Senate Finance Committee. Del. Benjamin L. Cline, R-Rockbridge, is sponsoring a similar version in the House of Delegates.
Among other bills, the Senate committee also approved Black’s Senate Bill 1362, which would allow active-duty members of the military to carry concealed weapons, while off duty, without a concealed handgun permit.
Also Wednesday, the House of Delegates voted to loosen age restrictions on concealed carry permits by allowing military service members younger than 21 to apply for a permit. Currently, permits are available only to those 21 or older.
The measure, House Bill 1582, sponsored by Del. Jeffrey L. Campbell, R-Smyth, passed on a bipartisan, 78-19 vote, but some Democrats argued it was another move toward limitless concealed carry. Republicans countered by saying that if young soldiers can be trusted with guns while fighting overseas, they should be allowed to carry concealed at home.