After a lengthy discussion, a public hearing, and a pro-gun protest outside the Albemarle County Office Building, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors (BOS) decided to postpone a decision on a gun ban on county property. In the board’s virtual meeting Wednesday, many public speakers spoke against the proposed ordinance, while others argued for a gun ban. But the supervisors seemed to take a more nuanced approach, discussing exemptions for concealed handgun permit holders and trying to make sure people wouldn’t accidentally violate the law.
Vice Chair Donna Price said, “One of the interesting things when you talk about weapons/guns: on either extreme there are people who believe there should be no regulations or total regulation, and both parties argue that if you don’t follow their belief, that there will either be anarchy or tyranny. And I tend not to believe either of those to be likely.”
She said, “I was especially moved by the testimony from, I believe it was Chief Lantz, that if we pass an ordinance, that actually increases the flexibility, the ability of law enforcement to question someone who happens to be inside our facilities.”
Albemarle County Chief of Police Ron Lantz had previously told the board that while he couldn’t give a blanket answer on whether or not crowds were safer with gun-carrying civilians, having a ban on open carry in county buildings would give his officers authority to question people displaying guns.
Price supports a ban on open carry on county property, but she said, “I don’t want to have a situation where we passed an ordinance for someone who is lawfully able to have a weapon finds themself inadvertently breaking the law simply by being in their vehicle on county property.”
Board members discussed the requirement to have signs warning of gun-free zones and giving the county authority to specifically grant or revoke permission for an individual to carry on county property. They also discussed how the ordinance would interact with neighboring Charlottesville, which passed a similar ban last year.
During the public hearing, GOP candidate for House of Delegates District 57, Philip Hamilton, spoke. “I’ve been a member of the Virginia Citizens Defense League for a number of years, and I strongly believe that if we have lawful citizens, who are armed, in more locations, we will have less shootings.”
Hamilton argued that a ban would limit the ability of citizens to keep themselves safe, and noted that if someone was harmed, the government has no liability even though they banned carrying guns.
“There should be some sort of responsibility on the local government where they can be sued if someone is injured if this measure is passed,” he said. “So I urge you to vote no on this measure and to respect the right of lawful citizens to carry on county property.”
Albemarle resident Mike Hall, who is the legislative lead for the Virginia Chapter of Moms Demand Gun Sense in America, spoke in favor of the ordinance and spoke against an exemption for concealed carry.
Hall said, “I would remind the board that Virginians are allowed to openly carry firearms without a permit, without a background check, without training, and concealed carry licensees are still not required to even touch a handgun to demonstrate competency under state law, and these credentials never expire. We don’t support a general exemption to this.”
The board is not expected to move forward with the issue before August 18.
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