Special Session Demonstrates Issues with Guns in Public Spaces

Jul 10, 2019

Gun rights supporters hold weapons outside the Capitol office building in Richmond Tuesday ahead of a special General Assembly session on gun issues.
Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber

Lawmakers are returning home to their districts this week after a special session on gun control empty handed.

Lawmakers weren’t the only people roaming the halls of the Capitol this week during the special session on gun control. There were also hundreds of spectators, many packing heat.

Democratic Senator Adam Ebbin of Alexandria says lots of those armed people were in the gallery upstairs. 

“The House rules allow for them in the chamber, I believe including when the governor is giving the State of the Commonwealth Address," says Ebbin. "But the Senate does not allow guns except the members that are bearing arms, which are several. Apparently the police are not enough to protect them.”

The question of when local governments are allowed to ban guns is a thorny one for lawmakers.

It’s one that Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment wrestled with this week after introducing a bill allowing local governments to create gun free zones at city halls and government centers. Norment withdrew his bill after the GOP majority whip threatened to quit in protest. 

“I don’t want to divert the focus from what we’re talking about right now," Norment explained during a press conference when Republican leaders explained they would be taking no action until after the election. “We want to focus on the message we’re delivering right now, rather than an individual bill I have or someone else’s.”

The Virginia Crime Commission will study the question of whether your local city council should be able to make your local city hall a gun-free zone. Lawmakers are scheduled to come back to Richmond to vote on that — after the election for all 140 seats in the General Assembly.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.