By Lyndsey Raynor
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – The state Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would prohibit certain out-of-state police agencies from accessing information regarding concealed weapon permits issued by the commonwealth of Virginia.
Senate Bill 948 passed by a vote of 24-16 and now advances to the House of Delegates.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Westmoreland, would affect states that do not have reciprocal agreements with Virginia regarding carrying concealed weapons. Maryland is such a state: Maryland does not recognize concealed weapon permits issued in Virginia.
Under SB 948, these states would not be able to access concealed weapon permit data from the Virginia Criminal Information Network.
The bill comes after gun owners in Virginia and other states expressed concerns about being targeted by Maryland State Police.
“It can easily be resolved if Maryland would just acknowledge our citizens’ permits,” Stuart said.
Addressing his colleagues, Stuart described an incident that occurred in Maryland on New Year’s Eve of 2013. According to news reports, Maryland police pulled over Florida resident John Filippidis on Interstate 95, ostensibly for speeding. An officer then approached the vehicle and allegedly told Filippidis, “You own a gun. Where is it?”
Filippidis did indeed own a handgun – he had a concealed-carry permit from Florida. At the time, he had the weapon locked in a safe at home. The only way Maryland police could have known about the gun was by accessing the database of Florida’s concealed weapon permits, according to Filippidis and other Second Amendment rights activists.
The traffic stop on I-95 lasted for at least 90 minutes while police searched Filippidis’ vehicle and failed to find a gun. Officers issued Filippidis a warning for speeding. Filippidis, who was traveling with his family, said he was humiliated by the ordeal – and the incident made national news.
“I can tell you that as a result of living on the eastern side of Virginia bordering Maryland, I have clients that have been through similar experiences,” said Stuart, a lawyer.
“And actually in Maryland, if you are stopped and you have a concealed weapon and you have a Virginia permit, they’ll arrest you. And they hold you without bond until you can get before a judge to get bond.”
Like Virginia, Maryland has a circuit court system, Stuart said – some localities don’t have a judge hearing cases every day. A Virginia citizen could be held in jail for three days before being able to see a judge.
“This is a Virginia citizen who’s never been in any trouble in their life who has a concealed weapons permit who goes into Maryland,” Stuart said.
“The point of this bill is not to let state police agencies get this information from the Virginia Criminal Information Network and then use it against Virginia citizens who otherwise are not breaking any laws whatsoever.”
Stuart said Virginia State Police can filter the network and allow out-of-state agencies to access some information but not data on concealed weapon permits.
All 21 Republican senators, including Rappahannock County’s Sen. Mark Obenshain (26th), and three Democratic senators voted for SB 948. Sixteen senators, all of them Democrats, voted against it. They included Sen. Richard Saslaw of Springfield.
“I’ll just simply remind everyone in here that State Police testified against this bill,” Saslaw said. “And they said if we pass something like this, we are going to find other states shutting down their information systems to our State Police. So that’s why I voted against it.”
Here is how the Senate voted Thursday on SB 948.
Floor: 01/22/15 Senate: Read third time and passed by Senate (24-Y 16-N)
YEAS – Black, Carrico, Chafin, Colgan, Cosgrove, Edwards, Garrett, Hanger, Lewis, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner, Watkins – 24
NAYS – Alexander, Barker, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Favola, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, McEachin, Miller, Petersen, Puller, Saslaw, Wexton – 16