Just five weeks after Virginia’s attorney general unilaterally severed carry-permit reciprocity with 25 states, Governor Terry McAuliffe has reversed course, reinstating the reciprocal relationships.  The Washington Post’s Jenna Portnoy frames this as a trade of concessions between Republicans and Democrats on the issue, but it’s a full retreat with a threadbare political cover:

Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican leaders will announce Friday they have reached a deal on Virginia’s gun regulations in a surprising moment of compromise on an issue that had threatened to poison the remainder of the governor’s term in office.

McAuliffe (D) agreed to legislation that says the state must recognize concealed-handgun permits from nearly all states — a reversal of Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s decision last month to sever the reciprocity rights of gun owners in 25 states.

In exchange, Republicans softened their stances on issues that have long been non-starters in the GOP-controlled General Assembly. Under the deal, the state would take guns away from anyone who was under a two-year protective order for domestic-violence offenses. And State Police would have to attend all gun shows to provide background checks for private sellers if they requested the service.

Both Republicans and Democrats in Virginia were cautious to describe this as a bipartisan win. Gun-control advocates gave the game away, though:

But the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence reacted bitterly in a message on its Facebook page. The group said McAuliffe has bragged about “his administration’s aggressive new approach to confronting the National Rifle Association.”

“Now he’s preparing to cave to them,” the message said. “As far as we are aware, there is not a single gun violence prevention advocate in Virginia who was informed about this deal before it was done. We all stand in opposition to it.”

McAuliffe had little choice. The state legislature had veto-proof majorities in both chambers ready to pass a “total recognition” law that would have cut the ground out from underneath McAuliffe and Herring, and forced an expansion of reciprocity. Matt Vespa reminded readers of this last night at Townhall:

On January 18, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a state-based gun rights group, held their lobby day in Richmond, where its president, Philip Van Cleave, noted that three Democrats (Sens. John Edwards, Lynwood Lewis, and Chap Petersen) in the state senate supported SB 610, a total recognition piece of legislation, which would have given the two-thirds majority needed to override an expected McAuliffe veto; the House of Delegates already has a Republican supermajority.

To avoid that outcome, McAuliffe reversed Herring’s action. He gained only a common-sense domestic violence intervention that is keyed on a judge issuing a two-year protection order, and a commitment to provide state resources at gun shows for voluntary background checks concerning private sales. The latter would have been within McAuliffe’s power all along, and it does nothing to require that private sellers (collectors, etc) conduct background checks; they could have prior to this anyway, through an FFL.

Bob Owens is amused to see these described as major concessions:

It’s interesting to see the Washington Post attempt to call the permanent protective order a “major concession” in order to save face for McAuliffe. It was very much a minor concession in line with what most Republicans support. No one wants an violent abuser to have access to firearms.

Progressives in Virginia are up in arms … so to speak:

The reaction from the CSGV is typical of what I’m hearing from progressive Virginia legislators and gun safety advocates. Angry words like “betrayal,” “deal stinks” and “there is no explaining this” are flying around, as well as multiple sources (Virginia gun safety advocates, Democratic legislators, etc.) telling me they weren’t consulted on this beforehand at all. Also, can we say “Mark Herring, meet underside of bus?” Ugh. …

A Virginia Democratic legislator just told me, “This is a bad deal. House Republicans will ‘let’ us pass two measures that are already incredibly popular, even among most gun owners. In exchange, the AG who went out an a limb is about to have that limb cut out from under him and we go to universal reciprocity.”

This isn’t a win for McAuliffe. It’s a cave, and a demonstration that electing a Democrat to statewide office does not make Virginia a blue state. Republicans should take note.