Newport News City Council votes to ban open carry weapons at city buildings

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Newport News City Council voted Tuesday night to ban open carry in city-owned buildings and property.

Despite nearly 20 public speakers attending — some open carrying long guns and wearing “Guns Save Lives” stickers — City Council voted 6-1 to approve the ordinance, which also includes locations of city-sponsored special events.

The lone “no” vote was Councilwoman Pat Woodbury.

This comes after the General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year relating to gun reform.

Nearly all of Tuesday’s public speakers were in opposition to the ordinance. Many said the ordinance will not make the city buildings safer, and could actually prevent some citizens from assisting if there was a person committing violence in the building. One speaker said he believed having an armed person at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center May 31, 2019 could have stopped the gunman before he killed 12 people.

“Don’t be driven by those that are frightened by firearms,” said Philip Van Cleave, leader of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

Woodbury agreed with those speakers, citing a shooting at a Texas church in December in which an armed parishioner shot a gunman that opened fire during a service.

Before the meeting Tuesday, 10 On Your Side spoke to Mayor McKinley Price. He said he asked the city attorney to see how that legislation could be applied to the city.

“I feel like most people, who are sensible about gun control, would see why you wouldn’t need to come to city property or be reading in a library with a gun on their hip. It’s just intimidating,” he said.

Price says he proposed the ban to help make city employees feel safe after some voiced concerns about people coming into City Hall openly carrying a gun.

“When people are coming into City Hall, it’s about something, a violation or upset about a bill or they have a complaint. Then you have another lever where they’re already intimidated because people are arguing and talking. Then, you add that they may have a sidearm that’s visible,” he said. ” You have to think of yourself as a staff person on how you feel about that. If it’s something I can do to make staff feel safer, I’m going to try to do it,” he said.

Places affected by the new ordinance include City Hall, parks, libraries and recreation centers that the city owns and maintains.

The ban does not apply to those who have concealed carry permits and other exemptions like police, fire marshals, and security guards.

Price says having a concealed carry permit shows that the gun owner is trained, but you can’t say the same thing for those who are openly carrying.

“With concealed, they’ve at least gone through a permitting process,” he said.

Price said ahead of that meeting that he expected some in opposition to the ban but, he says he proposed it to make sure city employees feel secure.

“We’re not trying to take guns away. We’re just trying to, in my mind what this will do is make it safer for people and less intimidating. I don’t see the need to hang a weapon around your neck and make a point,” he said.

To read more about the ordinance, click here.

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