Slemp said, "I am pleased to hear the ruling of the Circuit Court denying these firearms petitions. The Court's decision confirms my view that the Governor rushed to judgment last year with the mass restoration of felons' rights and did not apply legally sufficiently scrutiny. My office will continue to fight these petitions to keep guns out of the hands of violent felons and sex offenders."
Hearings were held in Wise on January 30, 2017 in the cases of Jack Presto Tickles and Rebecca Ann Maine. Tickles was convicted in 1998 of aggravated sexual battery and indecent liberties against a child by a custodian. His rights were restored by Governor McAuliffe in an executive order dated September 23, 2016. Maine was convicted in 1988 of unlawful shooting of a firearm at an occupied dwelling. Her rights were also restored by McAuliffe on October 14, 2016.
Wise County Circuit Court Judge Chadwick S. Dotson issued court orders denying both petitions late last week (copies are attached for reference). The Tickles decision cites to last year's Virginia Supreme Court decision which declared the Governor's restoration of over 200,000 felons to be unconstitutional. The Court order suggests that subsequent felon restoration orders issued Governor McAuliffe were likewise improper. According to the order, "Under the circumstances that exist in the present case, the Court finds very little that would distinguish this matter from the blanket restoration deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Howell v. McAuliffe."
It is illegal for a convicted felon to possess or transport a firearm. However, the law establishes a procedure for the court to issue a permit allowing a felon to possess and carry a firearm, ammunition for a firearm, or a stun weapon in Virginia. These petitions may not be filed unless and until "civil rights have been restored by the Governor." If the Governor has restored a felon's civil rights, a judge must conduct a hearing and find there is good cause shown for the permit to be issued.
Slemp said, "Governor McAuliffe's mass restoration orders were nothing more than a dangerous political stunt. These cases demonstrate the serious unintended consequences of the Governor's action and the resulting risk to public safety." Slemp continued, "Previous Governors exercised significant scrutiny before restoring a felon's rights. This Governor has made it a policy to restore felon rights almost automatically. That policy leaves us in doubt about whether these individuals are truly worthy of the privilege and thereby places the public in danger."
Slemp stressed, "To be clear, I strongly support the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. I also support the idea of redemption, rehabilitation, and forgiveness for those who have paid their debt to society. However, I remain deeply troubled for the safety of our Commonwealth in light of the Governor's rush to judgment and the undue stress that cases like these place on victims."