Gun control debate dominated the June 20 Charlottesville City Council meeting as members of opposing sides of the issue cited the Second Amendment—“the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”—and the Declaration of Independence’s inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that victims of gun violence had been denied.
In the wake of the Orlando massacre, the largest slaughter of Americans by a lone gunman, City Council passed 4-0 a resolution demanding state and federal legislators enact legislation to require comprehensive background checks and ban assault weapons. The resolution also asked the General Assembly to allow Charlottesville to pass its own weapons controls, requests previously made in 2013 and 2015.
Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy and City Councilor Kristin Szakos wrote the resolution, and after reading it, Szakos said there was strength in such measures across the country. She also said she was “appalled at the nerve of these people, the gun rights advocates, in the wake of these horrific events to claim they’re the ones feeling victimized.”
City Councilor Kathy Galvin, who was not present, sent a statement urging council to delay a vote on the resolution and expressing concern that protocol was not followed and that the resolution could be perceived as “frivolous.”
Szakos said she’d feel differently if Galvin had been sick, but because she chose to go to a conference in Italy, Szakos didn’t believe the business of the city should be delayed.
City Councilor Bob Fenwick said he had read well over 100 e-mails against the resolution, and noted that not one had an alternative to solving this problem, which he called “very disappointing.”
Mayor Mike Signer, who has joined the national coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said he was a supporter of the Second Amendment, but every amendment in the Constitution requires sensible and constitutional limits. For example, the First Amendment does not allow one to yell “fire” in a crowded theater, and the 1934 National Firearms Act regulated machine guns. And Bellamy said, “We have a moral responsibility to stand up.”
A number of citizens at the meeting did not agree. One noted he had a concealed carry permit and was carrying a weapon. Others challenged the councilors to do their homework and get the gun lingo down.
And Joe Draego, who had earlier objected to Muslim refugees, said none of the councilors had the courage to mention the Orlando shooter was Muslim, a religion whose adherents he called “monstrous maniacs.” When Signer told him defamatory speech was not permitted, Draego lay down in front of the dais and had to be carried out.