The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) was certain Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli had sold them out.
“His opinion on the GMU ban went against us,” said VCDL Vice President Jim Snyder in his introduction of Cuccinelli at Thursday night’s membership meeting in the Mason Governmental Center.
Cuccinelli soon allayed the group’s fears: “As Attorney General I cannot undercut my client by going out and saying something like, ‘You’re idiots for doing this.’ But the case is over, and I can now say I think they’re crazy.”
In January 2011, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld George Mason University's prohibition against guns in campus buildings and at sports and entertainment events.
The Attorney General’s office had written a legal opinion supporting GMU.
“While a court opinion is a ruling, a legal opinion from the Attorney General’s office is our best estimate of what the Virginia Supreme Court would say if they got it right,” he said.
Tuesday night Cuccinelli said of George Mason University’s gun ban decision, “The policy they’ve undertaken doesn’t achieve their goals for campus safety.”
“The role of the Attorney General is unique in that all governing agencies, the governor, and legislators are my clients,” said Cuccinelli. “Because my first obligation is to the law, I end up with some opinions I might not like.”
“It’s very important for us to maintain the credibility of the office, and for us to be legally right,” said Cuccinelli. “At times, that can be a very awkward position.”
“Obviously in the GMU matter I was not in a place I wanted to be. I don’t like their policy, it’s not good policy,” he said.
When Cuccinelli had met with the VCDL three years ago, he’d told the group the General Assembly oversaw all gun control decisions. “I made a legal mistake when I spoke to you three years ago,” Cuccinelli said. “I thought any agency in Virginia went through the General Assembly for gun laws,” he said. In fact, that only applies to local governments, not to state agencies.
Cuccinelli berated Virginia’s public universities for lobbying themselves through the General Assembly on an abbreviated legislative process. “Gee, it’s so inconvenient to participate in a democracy, especially for those in the ivory towers,” he said.
“They have their own special regulatory process, totally abbreviated,” he said. “They shouldn’t be treated any differently than any other state agency.”
Of the Republican’s taking control of Virginia’s Senate after the Nov. 8 General Election, Cuccinelli said it wouldn’t make that much of a difference for gun laws in the state. “We haven’t traded much up or down on individual Senate gun votes,” he said. “It’s not a conservative Senate, it’s a Republican Senate, and no one knows that difference as well as I do.”
Cuccinelli said the real struggle for gun rights is in committees. “There are going to be conservative committee chairs,” he said. “Tommy Norment is not 100 percent on board with our issues, but he has done pretty well as the Republican’s minority leader.”
“I don’t expect Tommy to do what Dick [Saslaw] was doing—to make up rules to kill bills; because that’s what Dick was doing,” said Cuccinelli.
“Even before the 20 - 20 tie [between Republicans and Democrats in the Virginia Senate] you had what amounts to a friendly Senate where bills do pretty well,” he said. “It’s the committees and subcommittees where things were being killed. “
“Your issues are not party line issues,” he told the VCDL members. “You’ll always be working with Republican and Democrat voters.”
Cuccinelli said he wishes Virginia’s General Assembly would bring gun laws back under their governance, and not allow agencies to decide for themselves. He said this should be one of VCDL’s goals for the next legislative session. “Let’s get rid of the patchwork and see the General Assembly take over all Second Amendment issues,” he said.
He said the Castle Doctrine should also be a goal. “The Castle Doctrine says that once someone forces their way into your home, you may use all the force necessary at the time to protect yourself,” he said. The burden of proof shifts in favor of the person defending themselves.
“I think we’ll get the Castle Doctrine this year. That’s not a guarantee, but I do think we should be okay,” he said.
“Second Amendment issues are good issues for people who want to get elected,” he said. “There’s been a revival with that in the last several years, and I’ve been glad to be a part of that.”