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VA – GUN CONTROL – Virginia’s gun-control debate shifts to newly empowered localities

At a virtual Alexandria City Council meeting in June, a state legislator explained why he signed onto a new state law giving local officials the authority to ban guns in some public spaces. Del. Mark Levine, D-45th, of Alexandria, recounted how Richmond-area gun enthusiasts made a point of walking around Alexandria’s Old Town Farmer’s Market last fall with rifles, alarming some vendors and shoppers. They notified police, who couldn’t do anything about it because — at the time — local officials had no power to prohibit guns at public events. “Alexandrians do not want people marching around with guns in our town,” Levine said. The council then voted unanimously to ban guns in city buildings, parks and at special events requiring a city permit, like farmer’s markets, festivals and political rallies. There was a decidedly different tone at a Powhatan County Board of Supervisors meeting on July 27. Conservative Supervisor Larry Nordvig urged the adoption of a pro-gun resolution by showing a photo of a dump truck on fire in Richmond and warning that the “mobs” destroying cities could come to the suburbs. “We need to defend ourselves,” Nordvig said. “The whole doggone country’s on fire.” The Powhatan board voted unanimously to affirm its pro-Second Amendment status. The resolution has no legal effect and could be undone if, at some point in the future, Powhatan voters elect leaders who favor local gun control. But supporters argued that passing something would send a stronger signal than saying nothing in response to new laws approved by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly. The two contrasting votes show how the next phase of Virginia’s gun-control debate is playing out at the local level, with Democratic-controlled cities starting to pass what they see as common-sense bans on guns in public places and conservative localities declaring they want nothing to do with them. [full article]

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