NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Voters have two chances to let their views be known on a proposed ordinance that would prohibit any further changes to local gun laws.
The public hearings were scheduled after a pro-gun group — the Norfolk 2nd Amendment Preservation Coalition — was successful in gathering enough signatures to force City Council to hold them.
The public hearings are scheduled for Tuesday and Dec. 8.
As written, the ordinance states that the city would not exercise any “authority granted to it” to regulate or prohibit the purchase, possession, transfer, ownership, carrying, storage or transporting of firearms, ammunition or components, or any combination of those items.
In addition, the ordinance also calls for the city to waive its sovereign immunity as it relates to any injury sustained by a person in a designated firearm-free zone.
“I don’t want them to regulate guns outside anything they’ve already done in the past,” said Bob Brown, founder of the coalition. “We want to keep laws exactly the way they did before.”
Brown does not want to see Norfolk follow in the footsteps of Newport News, where you can no longer open-carry a firearm in public buildings or on public parks.
In August, council was set to vote on an ordinance that would ban guns outright from government buildings, parks and city-permitted events. However, the proposal was hastily pulled over legal language errors and has never been returned to the agenda.
And Brown hopes it never does.
“If some wing nut comes up … if someone has a weapon and they can defend themselves, they might save dozens of lives,” Brown said.
The coalition was formed as local governments across the state were being petitioned to pass either Second Amendment sanctuaries or Second Amendment constitutional cities ahead of the 2020 legislative session. The goal of gun supporters was to show pushback against newly-proposed state gun laws that some believed would be unconstitutional.
While earlier this year, Mayor Kenny Alexander directed the City Clerk to send a letter to the Virginia General Assembly that reaffirmed the council’s duty to uphold the Second Amendment, no vote was ever taken on a resolution.
In fact, council members never even addressed the issue from the dais. That is what upset Brown.
“It was very rude,” Brown said. “We just can’t be ignored.”
That is why Brown still wanted to bring the issue back — even after many of the gun laws the movement set out to quash have gone into effect.
“I want to have a talk with them. But they have to negotiate with us honestly. Faithfully,” Brown said.
Under Norfolk’s City Charter, a group of registered voters can force the council to consider an item if they get enough signatures.
On Nov. 6, Brown, who is also chairman of the Republican Party of Norfolk, said he turned in 2,656 signatures. He needed 1,326.
This is the second time this year Brown has tried to force the issue. In June, the general registrar found the group did not gather enough signatures from registered voters to move forward with the public hearings.
However, City Attorney Bernard Pishko said the council doesn’t have to take action on it and that in itself can be seen as a denial.
Petitioners could then again hit the streets and gather 4,000 signatures to force the issue to a city-wide referendum. If voters approve the ordinance, the only way to undo it would be for another citywide vote.
“We are ready to do that if it comes to it,” Brown said. “We are not going away.”
How to participate in public hearing:
The city clerk will receive comments from the public before the formal meeting. Anyone who wishes to submit a comment on an agenda item and not attend the meeting in person may participate by videoconference, phone or email by following these steps prior to the meeting:
- Email email@example.com or call 757-664-4253 and leave a name and phone number. A staff member from the clerk’s office will call back. For email comments: provide name, agenda item and comment. The Clerk will note your email and agenda item for the formal record.
- Requests to speak on an agenda item are accepted by 3:00 p.m. the day of the Council meeting. To participate by phone: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 757-664-4253 and provide name, agenda item and phone number. A member of the Clerk’s staff will call you when Council is ready for your comment. You will have 3 minutes to address the Council.
- To participate by videoconference: either email email@example.com or call 757-664-4253 and provide name, agenda item and phone number. Access the meeting by WebEx Video click here at 6:00 p.m. Meeting Number: 172 546 0588 Password: council2020. A member of the Clerk’s staff will unmute you when Council is ready for your comment.
In person comments will be limited to 3 minutes.
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