The Richmond City Council chose to delay a vote on an amendment to its firearms ordinance. The council heard over an hour of public comments and discussion in the virtual meeting on Thursday afternoon. Eventually, the council members concluded they needed more time to clarify questions about vague wording in the amendment.
Councilwoman Kristen Larson said, “The sense that I’m getting from my fellow council members (and this is where I am,) I have some concerns about the enforcement as well as the legality of this.”
The council will consider and vote on the amendment in a special meeting on September 8, 2020, at 4 p.m.
The amendment was proposed by Mayor Levar Stoney, and is based on new legislation passed within the Virginia General Assembly that authorizes cities to pass gun regulations. The amendment substantially expands a 2019 ordinance that bans carrying “any firearm within any City-owned building, park, or recreation or community facility.” The new amendment adds verbiage outlawing possessing and transporting “firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof.”
Additionally, the amendment expands the ban to include any facilities operated by the city, including city-operated portions of buildings not owned by the city. The most controversial addition is a clause that bans firearms and ammunition on public streets and sidewalks “or any other place of whatever nature that is open to the public” that is adjacent to an event that would require a city permit.
The amendment is a response to gun-rights demonstrations such as the January 20 “Lobby Day” and the more recent August 17 protests held as the Virginia General Assembly began its special session.
The council members expressed concern about the definition of “adjacent” and how that might affect private property owners during protests and other events.
Council Vice President Chris Hilbert said, “I’m very concerned about the word ‘adjacent.'” Hilbert asked if they could legally use more clear wording in the ordinance than what is specifically stated in the Virginia statute.
Nevertheless, Hilbert clarified, “I am absolutely for this. I think there’s no question in my mind that people are coming to these protests with automatic weapons… to intimidate people. That’s exactly what they’re doing.”
“That’s what I’m concerned about, is people going out purposefully intimidating someone to silence them. That is absolutely wrong and unconstitutional,” Hilbert said.
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