RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s order last month restoringthe voting rights of 206,000 felons had an unintended consequence: It’s now easier for those ex-offenders to regain the right to own guns.
Before the order, felons who wanted to legally possess firearms first had to go through the process of having their civil rights reinstated, including the right to vote, to sit on a jury and to run for office.
That process — which involved submitting forms that were scrutinized by the secretary of the commonwealth’s staff, using the governor’s authority — is no longer in place.
Instead, felons who have completed their sentences can go straight to the step of petitioning the circuit court for firearm rights. Prosecutors review those petitions and can intervene if they believe a felon should continue to be barred from owning a weapon.
Days after McAuliffe (D) signed the April 22 voting-rights order, which was strongly opposed by leading Republicans in the GOP-controlled legislature, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson warned commonwealth’s attorneys of a potential increase in gun rights requests.