Virginia Lawmakers Ban Guns at State Capitol

Jan 10, 2020

Senators and Delegates discuss the ban during a Joint Rules Committee meeting Friday.
Credit Michael Pope

Virginia lawmakers have voted to ban firearms at the state Capitol, the first in what's expected to be many contentious gun votes in coming weeks.

Newly empowered Democrats in the General Assembly voted Friday to ban guns at the Capitol and a legislative office building, saying the move was needed to protect public safety.

Democrats pushed the new rule through on a party line vote, dismissing concerns from Republicans that responsible gun owners with concealed carry permits should be able to bring weapons into the building.

Democratic Delegate Marcus Simon of Fairfax County proposed the change. 

“There’s certainly a lot of chatter online in social media and elsewhere about people drawing a line in the sand here in Virginia using very inflammatory language that suggests that they are willing to protect their Second Amendment rights by any means necessary,” Simon said.

The new rule doesn’t just apply to visitors. It also applies to members of the General Assembly, many of whom have concealed carry permits and used to make a point of bringing their firearms with them to committee meetings and even into the House and Senate chambers during session.

Here's Minority Leader Todd Gilbert: “If Democrats are intending to create yet another so-called gun-free zone, I would caution them that that appears to be where all the bad things happen with bad guys with guns.”

Public officials have expressed concerns about planned Jan. 20 rallies that are set to draw huge crowds of pro-gun and gun-control advocates.  The rule adopted Friday does not apply to Capitol Square. However, Senator Adam Ebbin of Alexandria has a bill that would ban guns in Capitol Square, but that wouldn’t be passed and signed by the governor before the large-scale rally, which is scheduled for Martin Luther King Day.

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