RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — A gun rights group expressed interest to sue the City of Richmond over a local law banning firearms in many public places. The news comes after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling last week over the ability to carry a concealed weapon.
Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, questioned the legality of the city’s ordinance that bans possessing ammunition and firearms in public parks, government buildings, “recreation or community center” controlled by the city or “in any public street, road, alley, or sidewalk or public right-of-way.”
The law also extends to areas requiring a permit for an event.
“We have a right to protect ourselves, and just because a bunch of people gather together doesn’t nullify that right,” Van Cleave told 8News.
A majority of Supreme Court Justices said New York could not require someone to show proof of a specific need to get a gun license, in order to carry in public.
The ruling presents questions about the effectiveness of existing local laws that make concealed carry more difficult.
Van Cleave said he is waiting to file a legal challenge in Richmond until a judge rules on a VCDL lawsuit challenging a similar local law in Winchester, Virginia.
John Rockecharlie, a former prosecutor and current defense attorney in Richmond, said because the Supreme Court said states can regulate the possession of guns in some instances, Virginia’s capital city may have the upper hand.
“I think it would pass constitutional muster,” Rockecharlie said.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion noted “sensitive places“ like schools and government buildings could have gun bans.
“The Richmond ordinance allows for a ban around organized events, around city property, around parks and things of that nature,” Rockecharlie pointed out, saying a challenge to the local law could be presented in several ways.
“It depends on whether or not it’s a lawsuit that’s brought, saying, ‘this is violating my civil rights,’ or whether it’s a criminal case. So, someone gets arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. That will start at the General District Court Level, then probably be appealed to the Circuit Court, and then on up,” he said.
Petula Burks, a spokesperson for City Hall, said, “The city still considers City Code §19-335 to be effective.”
8News asked Mayor Levar Stoney’s office to elaborate why the city views the law is still effective. Jim Nolan, a spokesperson for Stoney’s administration said, “The city’s position is based on legal analysis of the decision by the city Attorney’s Office.“
It is unclear how a judge might rule if Richmond‘s law is challenged. As it currently stands, violators could face a class one misdemeanor, according to the law’s provisions.