Guns down: City gun control ordinance draws fire

Beginning October 1, guns will be prohibited at government buildings like City Hall, as well as in parks and recreation and community centers, and near permitted events. PC: Skyclad Aerial Beginning October 1, guns will be prohibited at government buildings like City Hall, as well as in parks and recreation and community centers, and near permitted events. PC: Skyclad Aerial

In June, the Virginia General Assembly passed a slew of gun control bills, including one that allows cities and counties to prohibit guns on public property. Localities across the state, like Newport News and Alexandria, have since enacted such a ban—and last week, Charlottesville followed suit.

Beginning October 1, guns will be prohibited in parks, buildings, and recreational or community centers owned by the city. They’ll also be banned on public streets or rights-of-way used for—or adjacent to—a permitted event, according to an ordinance unanimously passed by City Council on September 8.

What might have seemed like a straightforward progressive reform has, in fact, stirred controversy.

Anti-racist activist Brad Slocum fears the ordinance will be selectively enforced, pointing to the infamous Unite the Right rally, during which Charlottesville and state police officers stood by as white supremacists attacked counterprotesters.

“There’s ample recent and historical evidence that these kinds of ordinances…are not usually enforced against groups or individuals that are perceived as friendly to the police or the state, [like] militias, white supremacists, and similar types,” says Slocum, who supports defunding the police. “Whereas they do seem historically to be enforced against Black, left-wing, or otherwise non- or anti-establishment groups and individuals, sometimes severely.”

City resident Sean Reid also believes the law will disproportionately impact Black people, citing CPD’s long history of racism and overpolicing. According to Charlottesville Open Data, about 54 percent of people arrested by CPD since 2015 have been Black, even though the city is only about 18 percent Black.

Police officers are also not going to be posted at every city property, leaving many without a way to defend themselves or a sense of safety, says UVA grad student Ben (who asked that we not use his last name).

Though he views gun violence as a “non-issue” in the places where the city has now banned guns, Ben, who is a gun owner, also questions whether the law will be an effective way to prevent it, pointing to shootings that have occurred in places where guns were banned.

(Due to the varying definitions of “mass shooting” and “gun-free zone,” research remains unclear on whether shootings occur at increased rates in gun-free zones.)

Speaking only for herself, City Councilor Sena Magill says she too worries about the “unintended consequences” the ordinance could have, but feels that it is “the right way forward,” specifically because of the violence and trauma surrounding Unite the Right.

“If this ordinance had been in place on August 12, 2017, hundreds of people would not have been able to legally gather on park property and intimidate and threaten my friends and family,” she says. “I [also] don’t want someone to be able to walk into City Hall with a gun on their hip…and be able to intimidate the City Hall staff.”

“We’ve seen extremists exploit lax gun laws to terrorize the public,” adds Mike Fox, legislative lead for the Crozet chapter of gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action. “We saw it with Unite the Right in Charlottesville, earlier this year when armed demonstrators descended upon Richmond, [and] we’ve seen it across the state, where you have armed citizens showing up at government meetings, intimidating lawmakers [and] voters.”

According to spokesman Tyler Hawn, CPD is creating an educational and awareness campaign on the ordinance “to ensure understanding and compliance.” It will alert the public of where they can and cannot legally carry a gun, and the consequences that can come with violating the ordinance, a Class 1 misdemeanor: up to a year in jail, and a fine of up to $2,500.

Updated 9/16 to clarify the racial disparity in arrests made by CPD

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Concerned Citizen
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Concerned Citizen

I’m gonna carry my gun regardless. Let these tyrants try to enforce their unconstitutional laws.

Dave
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Dave

Lots of misinformation in this story.

First of all, the research is NOT AT ALL “unclear”. The vast majority of mass shootings ABSOLUTELY DO occur in “gun free” zones.
Also, on those rare occasions where a shooter does attack an area where citizens are armed, the attack is ended quicker, with less loss of life.

You do know that gun control originated as a way to control newly freed blacks. Making sure they were unable to defend themselves assured their continued oppression.
Few things in this country’s history are more racist than gun control.

Spartacus
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Spartacus

I’d like to report a crime: Brielle Entzminger is stealing her paycheck.

“(Due to the varying definitions of “mass shooting” and “gun-free zone,” research remains unclear on whether shootings occur at increased rates in gun-free zones.)”

Any 12 year old with a computer could find it in a minute.

Mitchell carr
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Mitchell carr

The sad irony is that to date 90% of the gun charges have been against felons carrying guns despite them being prohibited because they are FELONS. So now we have a city that will be arresting citizens carrying weapons to protect themselves from the criminals that the judges keep letting out over and over again, while those felons with guns hidden in their waistbands walk free until they shoot somebody or are arrested for yet ANOTHER crime. Ask Baltimore how well that worked out for them. Once the criminals realize the odds of meeting an armed individual are almost nil… Read more »

Jim Jones
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Jim Jones

Now only the bad guyswill have guns

David Reinhart
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David Reinhart

I find Mr. Fox’s definition of “intimidation” interesting. We are seeing daily attacks upon cities and law enforcement with rocks, commercial fireworks, chemicals, etc., as well as people being threatened into showing support for BLM by mobs on the street. Forty-three police officers have been killed so far this year. Thousands have been arrested, few have been prosecuted, while forty-three police officers have been killed so far this year. But at the January 20 demonstrations in Richmond 20,000-50,000 persons of both sexes, all races, and all sexual orientations, most of them armed, protested with no violence and only one arrest–ironically… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

EXACTLY! An ARMED society is a POLITE society. It’s been proven again and again.