Cuccinelli's new gun rights firm promises protection; draws criticism

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The verdict in the George Zimmerman case has driven both sides of the gun control debate in different directions.

Zimmerman -- who was acquitted in the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin because he claimed self-defense -- beat the charges, but at a big cost. Some estimates say his defense could have cost as much as $20 million.

Now gun rights activists are taking steps to protect themselves in case they find themselves in a Zimmerman-like situation. And they have a prominent legal ally on their side.

Former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli now walks Capitol Square in Richmond as an average citizen. But his four years as an often-controversial attorney general still loom large.

"We are connecting or passion to our profession," said Cuccinelli of his new gun rights law firm. Cuccinelli believes gun users who play by the rules are still at legal risk, and he hopes to come to the rescue.

"I think a lot of law abiding gun owners are very concerned about growing pressure against them," he said.

Cuccinelli pointed to several cases across the country where he claims gun owners were unfairly targeted. He warned there are even cases right here in Virginia, like the situation Liverpudlian Graham Corry of Henrico found himself in.

Corry was convicted of brandishing his firearm in a situation where he claims he was simply innocently loading his gun. Corry's conviction was subsequently held up on appeal.

Had he been a client of Cuccinelli's new firm, a small monthly fee would've entitled him to a defense against the charges with no additional attorney's fees.

"They want to exercise their second amendment rights, and they want to be prepared to defend themselves if something happens," Cuccinelli explained.

Not everyone views the threat against the second amendment as greatly as the former attorney general.

"I mean I thought it was creepy," said Del. Patrick Hope. "I thought it was a joke."

Hope, a liberal attorney from Northern Virginia, views the firm as a solution in search of a problem.

"This is something that Tony Soprano would appreciate and would like to have this type of insurance but not everyday citizens."

Hope argued that setting up a retainer system to defend someone in a criminal case is rare, and is an attempt to scare people into a payment plan.

"They are trying to profit off of people's fears," he said.  But Hope conceded there is nothing illegal about Cuccinelli's firm.

The former attorney general argued that the right to legally carry a gun is being threatened in ways it never has before.

"People in this community perceive that the treat is accelerating," said Cuccinelli. "It is getting worse."

For a small price now, Cuccinelli said his firm can save you the worry of major legal headaches and bills down the road. It's a calculated risk for gun owners at a time when the debate over the role of guns in our society is as heated it has ever been.

Asked for comment about Cuccinelli's proposal, a spokesman for the ACLU -- an organization often critical of the former attorney general -- said, "We don't have a dog in that fight."

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