Two Virginia Beach reps want to keep guns out of city buildings

By Keya Vakil
June 18, 2019

Two Virginia Beach city council members want to take steps to ban guns in all city buildings, a direct response to the tragic mass shooting in a Virginia Beach municipal building on May 31.

Councilwoman Sabrina Wooten is leading the charge on the effort. She acknowledged to the Virginian-Pilot that such a measure may not have stopped the gunman from carrying out his shooting, but says the city should have some say over whether people can bring weapons into government buildings.

City policy prevents workers from bringing guns onto city grounds, but Virginia Beach and other cities in Virginia can’t prevent the public from bringing weapons into city buildings. The one place they are currently prohibited is the courthouse.

Wooten told the Pilot that city residents are looking to legislators to do something in response to the shooting.  

She intends to do so at Tuesday’s city council meeting, where she will request a resolution to support a state bill that would give localities the ability to prohibit firearms in city buildings. She will also request a security assessment of city buildings, mental health and wellness evaluations of city staff, and a resolution honoring the victims of the shooting.

Wooten says she’s a supporter of the Second Amendment, but also believes in common-sense gun laws. She told the Pilot that she also wants to make sure mental illness and wellness checks for employees are enhanced, because she believes those are also important pieces of the puzzle.

Councilman Guy King Tower, who represents the Beach district, will join Wooten in her efforts.

Wooten’s proposals come ahead of the General Assembly’s July 9 special session, where Del. Kelly Convirs Fowler (D-Virginia Beach) is expected to introduce a bill that would allow localities to prohibit guns from being brought into municipal buildings.

Most Republican lawmakers in Virginia continue to oppose gun safety reforms, including state Sen. Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach), but public support for strengthening Virginia’s lax gun laws is growing, even among conservatives in the state.

A June poll by Public Policy Polling conducted in four Republican-held Virginia legislative districts found that 67% of voters supported a bill allowing local jurisdictions to ban guns from public buildings.

The poll also found that 62% of voters support a ban on semiautomatic rifles, 63% support a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and 83% support “red flag” laws that would allow someone to ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to guns in specific situations.

Whether Wooten or Fowler’s measures pass, one thing is clear: the shooting has sparked significant debate about the state’s gun laws, and that debate is unlikely to let up anytime soon.

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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