The Blacksburg Town Council will consider passing a proposed ordinance that bans the carrying of firearms on town property as well as in public spaces when being used for or next to a permitted event.
Localities in the Commonwealth are now allowed to take such action after the General Assembly passed legislation during the 2020 regular session last spring and took effect in July.
Specifically, Blacksburg’s proposed ordinance would prohibit the possession, carrying or transportation of firearms in any town-owned buildings, parks and community centers as well as any public street, right-of-way or other space that is open to the public, and is being used as part of or adjacent to a permitted event, according to the document.
The ordinance does not apply to military personnel, law enforcement officers, armed security officers with specific licenses or college reserve officer training corps (ROTC) programs, and would be punishable as a Class One misdemeanor, according to the document.
“I think [the ordinance] is the right thing for our town,” Blacksburg Town Council member John Bush said in an interview with The Virginia Star. “And I do think that from my general understanding of the people that live here and the feedback and communication that I have received our town citizens will support this.”
“For me, I’m going to side with the folks that don’t want to be with people who are carrying weapons, they’re not comfortable with that,” Bush added. “We want people to come to our council meetings and our planning commission hearings and all this, but we don’t want to be intimidated by people that have guns. It’s the same way with our street fares.”
Bush also said the Blacksburg police chief and his force supports the ordinance, and, in response to emails from people against the changes, mentioned that not bringing a gun into a public building would be the exact same as going into a courthouse, school or other places where firearms are prohibited.
Nevertheless, Bush did say that he was willing to consider and speak with other councilmembers about making one change to the ordinance, which would allow legal concealed carry permit holders to do so during street fares and other local events.
Several gun rights groups in Virginia are not too happy with Blacksburg’s ordinance, however.
“At the National Association of Gun Rights, we are opposed to all local level gun bans,” Chris Stone, director of communications for the National Association of Gun Rights, told The Star. “When local counties and cities create a patchwork of gun control, it jeopardizes law-abiding citizens’ ability to protect themselves while they are out in public, so we certainly oppose bans on law-abiding citizens carrying firearms.”
John Crump, Virginia state director of Gun Owners of America, and Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, both argued that the ordinance makes it harder for gun owners to know when they are allowed to legally carry or not and does not make communities safer.
“We have a right to keep and bear arms, we have a right to protect ourselves and anytime the government or anybody else steps in and denies that, that is a basic civil right. That is a problem,” Van Cleave said. “We reject [the ordinance], we reject the whole thing.”
The town council is expected to make a decision at its January 12th meeting, according to Bush.
If passed, Blacksburg would join seven other localities in Virginia that have already enacted similar ordinances. Those localities include: Arlington and Fairfax counties as well as the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Charlottesville, Newport News and Richmond.
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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Blacksburg Town Council” by Blacksburg Town Council.