Lawmakers vote down option for localities to ban firearms at planned rallies

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new discussion on firearms, inspired in part by 2017’s violent rallies in Richmond and Charlottesville, was put up for debate and then voted down by Virginia lawmakers on Thursday.  

House Bill 1956 was being discussed in the House Subcommittee on Militia, Police, and Public Safety.

The legislation asked whether localities should have the power to decide for themselves to allow or ban firearms at planned rallies and events.

“We’ve seen at some of these large scale demonstrations that emotions run high and they can often turn violent,” said Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring.

A new discussion on firearms is inspired in part by 2017's violent rallies in Richmond and Charlottesville.

The law would apply only to events with a permit.

At a planned rally along Richmond’s Monument Avenue in September of 2017, some demonstrators were visibly armed.

“Chief Durham himself said at one of the planned rallies along Monument Avenue they ended up having to spend about $500,000 dollars to prepare for it and a lot of that cost was attributable to things they had to prepare for because firearms were permitted,” said Herring.

Herring introduced this legislation as part of his hate crimes and white supremacist violence package.

He told 8News this proposal isn’t about infringing on people’s rights.

A new discussion on firearms is inspired in part by 2017's violent rallies in Richmond and Charlottesville.

Herring says it’s about communities monitoring the threat of violence at these events.

“It’s really narrowly tailored to make sure nobody’s rights are infringed upon, that it’s just something that’s there to protect the public and keep people safe,” said Herring.

The Senate version of this bill was knocked down in committee on Wednesday.

The subcommittee recommended passing by indefinitely (PBI), which effectively killed the bill on Thursday. The PBI vote does allow the committee to reserve the right to hear the bill at another meeting, though passage of the bill is unlikely. 

Virginia Delegate David Toscano, who sponsored House Bill 1956, tweeted about the subcommittee’s decision on Thursday night. 

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