RICHMOND, Virginia – Legislation prohibiting the possession and transportation of firearms and other weapons within Richmond’s Capitol Square as well as inside any buildings owned or leased by the state passed the Virginia Senate Tuesday afternoon.
The legislation, Senate Bill 1381, advanced out of the Senate by a 21-18 straight party-line vote with every Democrat in support and all Republicans opposing.
“What this bill does is it codifies and expands existing policy,” Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who introduced the measure, told his colleagues on the floor. “Right now, firearms and dangerous weapons are not allowed in state buildings, courtesy of governor [McAuliffe’s] executive order, and in Capitol Square, courtesy of joint rules. However, this extends it to Capitol grounds. It’s in the interest of public safety.”
Ebbin continued his argument for the bill’s passage by explaining that a number of other states already ban or partially ban carrying or possessing guns in government buildings.
Specifically, the bill bans the possession or transportation of firearms and dangerous weapons, which includes various types of knives, stun weapons as well as explosives, within the Capitol grounds and any building that is owned or leased by the Commonwealth, and where state employees are regularly present for work.
The legislation also calls for easily visible signs to be posted at each public entrance to Capitol Square and related buildings.
A violation is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor, which can carry up to 12 months in jail, a $2,500 fine, or both in Virginia, and any weapon is subject to seizure by law enforcement and forfeiture to the state, according to the bill.
There are multiple exceptions to the measure, however. Excluded from the bill’s provisions are law enforcement officers, retired state police officers, judges, authorized security personnel, active military while performing official duties and even the commissioner or deputy commissioner of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, among others.
Ebbin also brought up the FBI arresting three men ahead of the 2020 Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) Lobby Day, where thousands of armed citizens ascended on the Capitol to advocate the General Assembly for gun-rights, which went by peacefully.
VCDL president Philip Van Cleave called the legislation another attack on law abiding gun owners that is trying to strip people of their rights.
“This is addressing a non-issue just because they can, I guess,” Van Cleave told The Virginia Star. “It’s not about public safety, if it was, they could point where there have been problems [with guns], but there haven’t been any problems [there].”
After Ebbin had finished his brief remarks, Sens. David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke County) and Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) spoke against the bill offering similar points.
Suetterlein argued that the people who will be most affected by the change are not only citizens, but also legislative aides who often have to walk through the Capitol late at night or in the early morning. Chase, a known gun enthusiast, said carrying a firearm was a personal method of defense of her and also mentioned how the bill would negatively impact everyday people.
“When we disarm law abiding citizens, we empower the criminals,” Chase said. “We empower the criminals who don’t care what laws we pass in this body.”
Ebbin’s bill now goes over to the House of Delegates for consideration where it is likely to have success since the body passed similar legislation on Monday and has been killing several pro-gun bills during this session so far.
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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 “Adam P. Ebbin” by EbbinForVirginia. CC BY-SA 4.0. Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Anderskev. CC BY 3.0.