Virginia legislators vote to ban guns at state Capitol

Virginia legislators vote to ban guns at state Capitol
© Greg Nash

Virginia legislators voted Friday to ban firearms at the state Capitol, a move that comes as Democrats seek to push through several gun control measures after winning control of both chambers of the legislature.

The Joint Rules Committee approved the new rules, which would bar state lawmakers and the general public from carrying firearms in all areas of the Capitol. The policy provides exceptions for on-duty law enforcement officers.

“Our focus here is to keep everybody safe,” House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn told The Associated Press. “These are policies and rules that should have passed a long, long time ago.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Other states, such as Illinois and Ohio, have similar bans on guns in state capitol buildings. The U.S. Capitol also prohibits firearms.

Previous guidelines in Virginia had allowed anyone with a concealed handgun permit to bring a firearm into designated parts of the Capitol, though guns were prohibited in certain areas of the Richmond complex, including the Senate gallery and the governor’s office.

State Republican lawmakers, some of whom had previously carried guns into the legislature, expressed concerns with the new rules.

“I feel this is egregious, I think it’s an overreach,” Del. Terry Austin told the AP.

The vote on the new policy comes ahead of a Jan. 20 rally in Richmond that is expected to draw both gun rights activists and gun control advocates.

State Democrats, who won control of state government last year for the first time since 1994, are eyeing gun control as they seek to flex their muscles in their newfound majority.

Among the reforms the party hopes to pass are universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and a "red flag" law that would permit law enforcement to remove guns from those deemed to pose a danger to themselves or others.

Updated at 3:20 p.m.