House panel kills bill banning guns in Virginia Capitol
A House subcommittee on Thursday did not keep Del. Patrick Hope's bill alive.
After a lengthy debate, the Republican-led panel instead voted to kill the Arlington delegate's proposal to ban firearms from the Virginia Capitol and nearby legislative offices, arguing that law-abiding gun owners should be able to enjoy the same rights there as anywhere else.
Hope (D-Arlington) told the panel he had no problem with a law enacted last year that allowed people with concealed weapons permits to carry handguns into establishments serving alcohol, saying that perhaps a person might need to defend himself in a place without security. But Hope told the panel that the Capitol and the General Assembly Building where lawmakers and staff keep their offices do have sufficient security because of Capitol police and so private weapons were unnecessary.
"Passing this law will make everybody in this building safer," Hope said. He proposed that those who were carrying handguns legally to check them in lockers outside. He also said he had sponsored the bill before the mass shooting in Tucson that killed six, wounded others, and gravely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told the panel that a ban would not affect gun owners' rights. And he said it might make gun control advocates more comfortable exercising their rights in the Capitol. He told how some gun owners have flashed their weapons at him, evidently in an attempt to intimidate him.
But Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Defense Citizens League, spoke against the ban, as did Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), who is a member of the panel.
Gilbert said that even if there were a ban on carrying a gun in the Capitol and legislative offices, there are ways that weapons could still smuggled in. And that, he said, could lead to greater damage.
"Something bad might happen some day; I don't think we can legislate against every bad thing," Gilbert said. He also argued that law-abiding citizens who carry guns should not have to surrender any rights to meet with their legislators.
"I don't think that our rights should be any more limited here than they are out on the street," Gilbert said.
At one point, a member of the public who was carrying a handgun and two extra ammo clips on his hip stood to speak against the bill. Hope, who was seated about two feet away, turned to listen, his eyes ticking between the gun and the man's face.
"I knew this would be an uphill battle," Hope said afterward. "I just think it's something that has to be done. You don't know who's coming through the door."
| January 27, 2011; 6:54 PM ET
Categories: Arlington County, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates
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