Concealed weapons are now a little easier to carry in Clarke County and Virginia thanks to a change made the Commonwealth’s General Assembly during its latest legislative session. The law change, which removes fingerprint print submission as part of the concealed weapon permit process, means that local sheriff and police departments now can only require applicants to submit documents when applying for a license to carry a concealed handgun.
“This is an example of the Dillon Rule in action,” said Supervisor Chairman Michael Hobert. “As a Dillon Rule state, localities only have the authority to enact rules expressly authorized by the Commonwealth. We had been allowed to require fingerprints prior to this change but now the Commonwealth has taken the authority to do so away.”
Hobert’s statement concerns Section 18.2-308 of the Code of Virginia which had previously stated “As a condition for issuance of a concealed handgun permit, the applicant shall submit to fingerprinting, if required by local ordinance, in the county or city where the applicant resides and provide personal descriptive information to be forwarded with the fingerprints through the Central Criminal Records Exchange to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the purpose of obtaining criminal history record information regarding the applicant, and obtaining fme gerprint identification information from federal records pursuant to criminal investigations by state and local law enforcement agencies.
The revised Code strikes the fingerprint requirement and effectively prevents Clarke County from asking applicants to submit to fingerprinting.
As a Dillion Rule state, Virginia courts have concluded that local governments in Virginia have only those powers that are specifically conferred on them by the Virginia General Assembly, thosee powers that are necessarily or fairly implied from a specific grant of authority and those powers that are essential to the purposes of government — not simply convenient but indispensable.
The Clarke County Sheriff’s Department began observing the new regulations several weeks ago when the new law was enacted, however, the Clarke Supervisors took longer to act due advertising requirements associated with the public hearing process.
At the time of the legislative change Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper expressed concerns that without a fingerprint check it is very difficult for law enforcement officials to verify that the concealed weapon permit applicant is, in fact, who the person represents themselves to be. Roper also said that Virginia law enforcement associations had not been consulted prior to the law change.
“This kind of snuck up on us,” Roper told the Board of Supervisors at a work session earlier this summer. “We were very surprised to learn about this change.”
“I’m not saying that the change is either a good one or a bad one,” said Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood). “But the move came in the dark of the night without consultation with localities. This is not the way that the legislative process was intended to work.”
On Tuesday night the Supervisors voted unanimously to adapt the Clarke County Code to reflect the General Assembly’s change. No citizens spoke at the public hearing on the issue.