BILLINGS — The Commonwealth of Virginia will no longer recognize Montana concealed weapon permits inside the state’s borders beginning Feb. 1, 2016.
Montana is one of 25 states included in the revocation resulting from a legal review of the state's concealed carry law, according to a news release from the Virginia Office of the Attorney General.
The attorney general's office and Virginia State Police reviewed requirements in the 30 states whose permits Virginia previously recognized. The study found only five of the states held applicants to the same standards as the state of Virginia.
Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, said Virginia is an exception to the larger trend of states opting to recognize Montana’s concealed weapons permits. In 1999, Montana passed a concealed carry reciprocity bill. Since that time Montana has recognized the permits of other states which require a background check and fingerprinting before issuing a concealed carry permit.
“Now in the case of Virginia, they have a pretty long list of people who are excluded from getting a concealed carry permit,” Marbut said. “They have decided to no longer recognize Montana permits because our list is not as long as theirs.”
Virginia’s concealed weapons law includes 20 disqualifications for permit applicants. Among other conditions, the law excludes anyone with a driving under the influence conviction within three years of application or two or more misdemeanors in the previous five years.
Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said neither of those restrictions exists in Montana.
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However, misdemeanor partner or family assault convictions do warrant a disqualification. Applicants must disclose any previous convictions when they apply, regardless of the severity of the offense. Failure to mention a misdemeanor, including driving under the influence, results in a denial, Linder said.
He said the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office received about 1,000 concealed carry permit applications in 2015, down from about 1,400 in 2014. Of those, two or three applications are denied every week, he said.
“What we find most of the time is people not completely filling out their criminal history, and they will omit their info. Maybe they had a criminal history in other states and they think we won’t find out about it,” he said.
Montana residents interested in carrying a concealed weapon in Virginia still have options. A nonresident permit is available in Virginia for those who are not disqualified by the 20 restrictions.
Otherwise, as Marbut said, Virginia is not a very large state compared to Montana. If Montana permit holders plan on traveling down the east coast with a firearm, they can lock the weapon in a container and place it in the back of the vehicle. North Carolina is a short distance away and recognizes Montana permits.
Marbut regularly teaches concealed carry classes in Missoula. He said he has taught more than 5,000 students and tells every class it is their responsibility to research concealed carry laws in every state they plan to carry in before embarking on a trip.