The Richmond and Charlottesville City Councils on Tuesday both unanimously passed ordinances banning firearms in city buildings, parks, and permitted events. Both cities had spent multiple meetings discussing the ramifications of their ordinances.
Richmond’s discussions focused on nuances of posting signs to mark permitted events in a way that protected people from accidentally carrying firearms into a banned area, while not incentivizing event organizers to dodge a firearms ban by not getting permits.
“You’re never, ever going to achieve 100 percent compliance,” Councilmember Stephanie Lynch said. “I think what we are saying as a city and as a policy-making body by passing this ordinance, is that we will not tolerate the carrying of firearms openly in the intimidation of folks who are trying to peacefully protest.”
In Charlottesville, the vote on the ordinance was previously delayed to insert an exemption for inoperable firearms at parades. A new clause was added that provides for a special permit and an official to verify that the firearm is inoperable. The ordinance was also amended to allow on-duty police officers and officers providing security to carry their firearms but specifically does not exempt off-duty officers from the ban.
Discussion in both city councils pointed to recent protests where attendees displayed firearms as a major reason for the new ordinances. Charlottesville Councilmember Lloyd Snook mentioned a tense protest in August where armed militia groups faced counter-protesters.
“We had no authority to say to somebody, ‘This is a place where guns are not permitted, get out of here!’ Or, ‘This is a place where guns are not permitted, if you want to come in, we’re going to run you through a metal detector,'” Snook said.
Richmond Council Vice President Chris Hilbert said he is as much concerned about the First Amendment as the Second Amendment.
“It seems to me that you are infringing the freedom of speech when you’re standing next to an event where people are exercising their First Amendment rights [and] you are intimidating them from exercising that First Amendment right. We’re not talking about going door-to-door and confiscating weapons…this is a small step,” Hilbert said.
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