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Posted at 10:20 AM ET, 01/11/2011

UPDATED: Citing Arizona, Va. delegate proposes banning firearms in State Capitol

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

A Virginia delegate is introducing a bill to ban firearms from the state Capitol and General Assembly Building in response to the shooting rampage in Arizona that left a U.S. Congresswoman critically wounded.

Del. Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington) will propose that the General Assembly consider the ban when it convenes for its annual legislative session Wednesday.

"The tragedy this weekend in Tucson should cause all public officials to re-examine the safety and security of themselves, their staff, and visitors," Hope said in a statement.

Hope's bill likely will face stiff opposition in the Virginia legislature, where conservative members often seek to loosen, not tighten, gun rules. But the shootings in Arizona, which left six dead--including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl-- and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), could revive a longstanding debate about whether to allow firearms in the state's top government offices.

Though guns are banned in some local government buildings in Virginia, they are allowed in the state Capitol in Richmond and in the building nearby where senators and delegates have their offices and legislative committees meet.

In 2004, a joint committee of the state House and Senate tweaked the rules slightly to require that those carrying weapons in the Capitol hold a concealed weapons permit, even if they are carrying their gun openly. That change drew protestss from some gun-rights advocates who argued a person carrying a weapon openly should not have to hold a permit.

Virginia Capitol Police monitor metal detectors at the doors of the General Assembly Building and State Capitol but allow permit holders who set off the machines to proceed into the buildings. It is not unusual to see people wearing holstered guns at the Capitol during the legislative session, particularly on days when gun rights groups hold rallies.

Hope, who is in his second year in the legislature, said he was taken aback last year when he first found himself riding the elevator with a man who had a gun strapped to his leg.

"I felt very uncomfortable and very uneasy," he said in an interview. He said he drafted the bill several weeks ago, before the events in Arizona, but said they illustrate why such a move would be smart.

"We've got take every prudent action to protect ourselves, our staff and the public," he said. "Look at airports, look at Congress, look at federal courthouses. They've been able to pass these. Why are we any different?

Hope said his bill would not make it a crime to bring a gun to the legislature but would direct Capitol Police to help gun owners check their weapons at the doors before entering. It would also exempt members of the legislature from the ban.

The most notable incident involving a gun at the General Assembly Building in recent memory did, in fact, come from a state delegate. In 2006, then-Del. Jack Reid (R-Henrico) accidentally shot a handgun in his General Assembly Building office, firing into a bullet proof vest he kept hanging on his door as a joke. He apologized profusely for the incident, which he said occurred as he was removing a clip from the gun which he carried to work each morning.

UPDATE 4:20 p.m.:

At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) was asked about the events in Arizona and this proposal. "We categorically condemn this kind of violence," he said, noting that the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives people the right to speak their minds free from threat of violence. But, he went on to say, he also believes deeply in the second amendment right to carry arms.

"Those of us in Virginia strongly support that Second Amendment. We generally disfavor prior restraint of First or Second amendment rights. Many of those bans have proven not to be effecitve. We have a limited number of bans in places like courthouse and so forth. I don't know how that kind of bill will fare," he said.

We've received a short statement from the National Rifle Association on this proposal. Spokeswoman Rachel Parsons told us, "At this time anything other than prayers for the victims and their families would be inappropriate."

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | January 11, 2011; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate  
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Comments

Shame on you Del. Hope for turning your back on our free society and opting for protectionism over the Constitution. If this becomes law it will be enforced by police with metal detectors. Most of us citizens do not have such luxury to protect ourselves and our workplaces, and the good citizens of Virginia will be completely defenseless going to and from the General Assembly in Richmond, not a City I consider an example of civility.

Posted by: paramedic70002 | January 11, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Gun laws don't work to protect people. Obviously harming people is already illegal so passing more stupid laws is only going to weed outlaw abiding people who wouldn't have caused any harm anyway. Good luck with that Virginia. PFFFFFFF

Posted by: JMB4 | January 11, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Banning guns is exibiting faulty logic, for two basic reasons. 1:Criminals and the insane are not worried about our rules or our laws. 2:If the congresswoman,her aids,and the judge been armed this idiot would not have been able to shoot so many people. I will give you the attack on the congresswoman probably could not have been stopped,due to the cowardly ambush style in which it was commited. But I can say with much certainty that he would not have lived to shoot 20 people.
What never fails to suprise me is how liberials understand that we need a strong armed military to maintain our place in the world, that turning the other cheek is not the proper response to violence there. That if we laid down our weapons (militarily), we would be overrun and living under some other nations rules. That a strong American defense is formost to our security. However that logic does not make the transition to our personal level. I understand that even on a personal level "this is a war" whether it be teorrorists, criminals, or "nutjobs" The majority of Americans see this situation for what it is. The unarmed,freedom-loving, law aiding, decent people, we have a name for them.....victims.

Posted by: donaldcox43 | January 11, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Banning guns is exibiting faulty logic, for two basic reasons. 1:Criminals and the insane are not worried about our rules or our laws. 2:If the congresswoman,her aids,and the judge been armed this idiot would not have been able to shoot so many people. I will give you the attack on the congresswoman probably could not have been stopped,due to the cowardly ambush style in which it was commited. But I can say with much certainty that he would not have lived to shoot 20 people.
What never fails to suprise me is how liberials understand that we need a strong armed military to maintain our place in the world, that turning the other cheek is not the proper response to violence there. That if we laid down our weapons (militarily), we would be overrun and living under some other nations rules. That a strong American defense is formost to our security. However that logic does not make the transition to our personal level. I understand that even on a personal level "this is a war" whether it be teorrorists, criminals, or "nutjobs" The majority of Americans see this situation for what it is. As for the unarmed, freedom-loving, law abiding, decent people,in America, we have a name for them.....victims.

Posted by: donaldcox43 | January 11, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Banning guns is exibiting faulty logic, for two basic reasons. 1:Criminals and the insane are not worried about our rules or our laws. 2:If the congresswoman,her aids,and the judge been armed this idiot would not have been able to shoot so many people. I will give you the attack on the congresswoman probably could not have been stopped,due to the cowardly ambush style in which it was commited. But I can say with much certainty that he would not have lived to shoot 20 people.
What never fails to suprise me is how liberials understand that we need a strong armed military to maintain our place in the world, that turning the other cheek is not the proper response to violence there. That if we laid down our weapons (militarily), we would be overrun and living under some other nations rules. That a strong American defense is formost to our security. However that logic does not make the transition to our personal level. I understand that even on a personal level "this is a war" whether it be teorrorists, criminals, or "nutjobs" The majority of Americans see this situation for what it is. As for the unarmed, freedom-loving, law abiding, decent people,in America, we have a name for them.....victims.

Posted by: donaldcox43 | January 11, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Banning guns is exibiting faulty logic, for two basic reasons. 1:Criminals and the insane are not worried about our rules or our laws. 2:If the congresswoman,her aids,and the judge been armed this idiot would not have been able to shoot so many people. I will give you the attack on the congresswoman probably could not have been stopped,due to the cowardly ambush style in which it was commited. But I can say with much certainty that he would not have lived to shoot 20 people.
What never fails to suprise me is how liberials understand that we need a strong armed military to maintain our place in the world, that turning the other cheek is not the proper response to violence there. That if we laid down our weapons (militarily), we would be overrun and living under some other nations rules. That a strong American defense is formost to our security. However that logic does not make the transition to our personal level. I understand that even on a personal level "this is a war" whether it be teorrorists, criminals, or "nutjobs" The majority of Americans see this situation for what it is. As for the unarmed, freedom-loving, law abiding, decent people,in America, we have a name for them.....victims.

Posted by: donaldcox43 | January 11, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Let me get this right. A Deligate says, you Mr. Common Citizen, you cannot carry a weapon in the state capital building. But I, Mr. Del. Hope, by virtue of my almighty office, am allowed? Interesting perspective that. Sounds like someone wants a seperate set of rules. Sounds like discrimination. I'm appalled that a Delegate would target the device and not the problem. The issue here, like VT, is the mental health reporting system. The other issue related to AZ, is drugs. Long term drug use will lead to mentally unstable states.....mentally unstable states drive people to do inhumane acts with cars, trucks, knives, ropes, and yes, guns.

The gun wasn't the issue. If you believe the gun was at fault you are lying to yourself. A gun doesn't fire itself. A gun doesn't load itself. A gun doesn't drive itself miles to a destination. People do those things. People drive their cars through crowds on universities - but there isn't a public outcry for banning cars at universities. Alchol is a leading cause of rape and violence on universities, but alcohol isn't banned on universities and there aren't gate checks to make sure it doesn't get in --- see football games..

Folks need to stop attacking inanimate objects and start addressing the real problem. People.

Posted by: Dirty_Ferrel | January 11, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

*sigh* Why do we need additional legislation? And how does this legislation propose to stop the random lunatic who was behind the Arizona shooting? The shooting was not at the AZ Capitol building, so this ludicrous legislation would solve nothing.

Posted by: kayla1025 | January 11, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

He wants to ban all guns because he felt uncomfortable riding in an elevator with a person who had a gun. Yeah that sounds about right for a Delegate. The pro-gun folks on going to swarm all over the place this year.

Posted by: blasmaic | January 11, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

" look at Congress, look at federal courthouses."

Yes, look at them. Those that pass the laws exempt themselves from them. If guns are, by law, allowed in bars and schools then they should be allowed in the courts and chambers that make and enforce these laws. The laws should ensure a judge be as safe at the office as a bartender is in theirs.

Posted by: Greent | January 11, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

They're too afraid to live in the society they've built. If they allow guns in the streets, they should allow them in their offices.

Posted by: jgllo | January 11, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Hope's proposal (and the timing of the announcement) represent cheap political grandstanding. He is exploiting a national tragedy just to gain a little personal publicity.

His unseemly efforts should be ignored.

Posted by: jrmil | January 11, 2011 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Dear Ms. Halderman:

I believe you are mistaken about guns being banned in local government buildings. Airport terminals and possibly churches remain the only buildings where open carry is off limits.
Richmond certainly would ban guns from its City Hall and other buildings if it could. However, it was clear two years ago when members of the Virginia Citizen Defense League came strapped to the building to oppose City Council's legislative proposal for gun control that such individuals could not be barred from open carry.
The state has stripped localities of any authority to deal with guns.


Posted by: mauryand19th | January 12, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Apologies for misspelling your name, Ms. Helderman.

Posted by: mauryand19th | January 12, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

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