It is not a surprise that former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is at the center of an intense debate. This time it has nothing to do with a policy position, but one of his many post-elective life career moves.
Cuccinelli, along with Sen. Tom Garrett the former Commonwealth's Attorney in Louisa have launched Virginia Self-Defense Law PLC. The law firm allows you to put their firm on retainer for a low monthly fee in the event that you find yourself in trouble with law in a gun related crime.
Gun control advocates and some legal experts have raised questions about the move by Cuccinelli. The firm was even the subject of a recent story on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show".
We went right to the source and asked Cuccinelli about his motivation for starting the firm and talked to one of his biggest critics.
Here is our story from NBC12:
RICHMOND (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."
You can read and see our full story on NBC12.com.
UPDATE: Del. Hope took our story and called for legislative action to shut down law firms like Cuccinelli's. Hope is running for Congress in Northern Virginia and pledged to introduce federal legislation to outlaw attorneys to be paid in "anticipation of a crime" if he is elected.
The chances of that type of bill actually becoming law would be slim, especially given that if Hope were to be elected, he would be a junior member in the deep minority in Washington.
However, Hope is one of a whole fleet of candidates running to replace longtime congressman Jim Moran in Virginia's 8th District. Should he be unsuccessful, don't be surprised if he attempts to submit similar legislation in Richmond.
His full release can be found after the jump:
Patrick Hope issued the following statement today, after his interview in yesterday's segment on NBC News in Richmond regarding Ken Cuccinelli's new law firm:
"I was absolutely appalled to see the news that former VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli founded a new law firm to specialize in defending people who commit crimes with guns. His website even highlighted George Zimmerman as the kind of defendant they could help and then removed the reference after it received attention. The firm is soliciting payments of around $10 a month as a retainer for free legal services should their client commit a crime with a gun.
At a minimum, this type of behavior is unethical for an attorney to be paid in anticipation of a crime- especially one with guns. I believe we can outlaw this in the U.S. Congress by passing a bill that would prohibit such arrangements in criminal cases.
Tony Soprano might appreciate this type of legal offering, but we need to outlaw this type of solicitation before it encourages more people like George Zimmerman to commit a crime with a gun."