Long lines greeted visitors—and legislators—at the state capitol Monday morning as metal detector security checks were implemented following Friday’s vote by Democrats to ban guns in capitol buildings and legislative offices.
Thousands of gun rights activists descended on Richmond hoping to deter more restrictions as the new Democratic majority took up and passed gun control bills for the first time.
“Firearms are currently prohibited in all executive office buildings—for the safety of all who work in and visit the Capitol, we're glad the legislature has followed suit,” said the Governor’s Office.
Local Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, got caught up in the line Monday, even though the gun ban will not be enforced with lawmakers, who will not be required to pass through metal detectors.
“If you’re wondering why the Democrats are willing to put up with this mess, it’s because they exempted legislators from having to go through this ...,” Freitas posted on Facebook Monday morning. “And that is part of the problem. When they exempt themselves from the difficulties they create, it become less likely they will make the changes they need to.”
Freitas, whose wife, Tina, spoke at Saturday’s gun rally in Culpeper, said the new ban on guns in the state capitol will force people to “have to choose between being able to carry and lobbying your elected representatives.”
The Senate Courts of Justice Committee Monday morning passed bills that: authorize communities to ban firearms in a public space during a permitted event, or an event that would otherwise require a permit; limit the purchasing of handguns to one per month; a requirement for running a background check for firearm transfers and prevent individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others from possessing a firearm, according to a news release from Attorney General Mark Herring.
He said in a statement, “Virginians have been calling for common-sense gun safety laws for far too long and today we have taken the first steps to finally make our communities safer. The passage of a one-gun-a-month law and a red flag law are substantial steps towards keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals and preventing gun violence in the Commonwealth ... it is my hope that we will pass full universal background checks before this session is over."
Herring said the bill allowing localities to prohibit firearms at permitted events has been proposed since the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
"Allowing localities to restrict the use of firearms at permitted events will make participants, bystanders, communities and law enforcement agencies safer," the attorney general said.
Culpeper Town Councilman Jon Russell was one of several local officials in Richmond on Monday. He posted on social media from the Senate committee meeting.
"They just passed a regulation of one hand gun a month, 'red flag' laws and to give hundreds of local governments the ability to ban lawful gun owners from carrying at farmers markets and permitted events and on nearby streets. This is going to be disastrous," Russell stated.
Former chairman of the Culpeper County GOP Committee, Russell has requested the town of Culpeper adopt a Second Amendment sanctuary locality resolution. The item will be considered at Tuesday night's Town Council meeting.