Republicans introduce bills restricting guns in government buildings

The Capitol at dusk. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Virginia Beach Republican Del. Glenn Davis will carry legislation that would allow municipalities to ban guns in local government buildings, with some caveats.

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, went further, introducing a bill that would prohibit guns and other weapons “in any building owned or used by a locality for governmental purposes in the commonwealth,” a summary of the legislation reads. It’s one of several substantive bills on guns introduced for the session by Norment, who expressed some openness to legislation on gun violence in the wake of the Virginia Beach municipal building massacre.

Among Norment’s other proposals are legislation requiring firearms safety education in schools; expanding the time frame for offenses that disqualify a person for a concealed weapons permit; and requiring courts to report to the State Police for entry into a state database denied applications for concealed weapons permits.

A spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who called the special session that begins Tuesday to push a raft of gun control legislation in the wake of the shooting, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he was “pleased to see legislators coming to the table with serious gun violence prevention proposals — he hopes every legislator will have the chance to engage in honest debate and cast their vote.”

Davis’ measure is similar to one of Northam’s priorities during the special session.

“Working to ensure the proper and safe use of firearms and protecting the rights conveyed by the Second Amendment do not have to be mutually exclusive,” Davis said in a release. “I believe that it is the obligation of those who value the latter to assure the former.”

Davis will present three pieces of legislation:

  • Allowing localities to ban guns in local government buildings as long as the locality includes additional security, such as metal detectors and security personnel at buildings’ entrances.
  • Creating a mobile app for students to access mental health and crisis intervention services and a tip line to report school safety concerns (a similar measure in 2018 proposed by Del. Marcus Simon, D-Falls Church, failed).
  • Eliminating online video-training as an option for concealed-carry permits.

Virginia Beach Democrat Del. Kelly Fowler floated the idea of introducing legislation allowing municipalities to make their own call on guns in local government buildings at a recent Virginia Beach City Council meeting. The council deferred voting in support of the measure.

Del. Glenn R. Davis, R-Virginia Beach.

Davis, a competitive shooter in high school, said the shooting in Virginia Beach was “a tragedy that has no answers and no legislation could have prevented.”

“No one believes that putting a sticker on the door will stop anyone committed to doing harm to others from carrying a weapon into that building,” Davis said in the video with his announcement, adding that he considered the special session “ill-timed.”

“That’s why I believe this legislation creates a reasonable balance between a locality’s desire to control firearm access in their buildings and a citizen’s right to feel safe and protect themselves.”

Davis, like most of Virginia Beach’s Republican delegation, represents a district that has become more Democratic leaning in recent years.

In the 2016 presidential election, 49 percent of Davis’ district voted for President Donald Trump. In the 2017 gubernatorial election, 52 percent of his district voted for Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

In 2018, 54 percent of his district voted for Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine.

He is being challenged by Democrat Karen Mallard, a teacher who challenged U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria for the party nomination to run against Scott Taylor in the 2018 congressional elections.

A host of bills have been filed or are expected to be introduced for the session, from mandatory minimums for gun crimes to restrictions on assault weapons and firearm magazine capacity, closing loopholes in background checks and creating extreme risk protection or “red flag” orders that can remove guns from people who pose a threat to themselves or others, among many others.

UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect new legislation filed for the special session on guns that starts Tuesday.

Editor Robert Zullo contributed.