House Panel shoots down ban on guns in libraries

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RICHMOND, Va. – A House subcommittee shot down a bill Thursday to allow libraries owned or operated by local governments to ban firearms from their premises.

On a 4-1 voice vote, Subcommittee No. 1 of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee recommended tabling HB 1418. The bill, proposed by Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, sought to allow localities to adopt ordinances to prohibit the carrying firearms in public libraries.

“The (library) staff strongly feels that a library should be used as a reading circle and that schools and libraries are inappropriate places to openly carry firearms,” McQuinn said. “We know that a lot of times accidents are waiting to happen, and God forbid that happens in a public library.”

Tanya Francis, a resident of Richmond’s North Side and a Richmond Public Library board member, echoed McQuinn’s statements.

Committee members Del. Todd Gilbert (left), Del. Tommy Wright (center) and Del. Matthew Farris (right) discuss HB1418

Committee members Del. Todd Gilbert (left), Del. Tommy Wright (center) and Del. Matthew Farris (right) discuss HB1418

“We have to have these laws place in order to hold these people accountable if something were to happen,” Francis said. “We have a law to cover the schools, and to me, the library is an extension of the school. This law would capture that.”

Lori Haas, Virginia state director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, also spoke in favor of the bill.

“Gun homicides in Richmond, Roanoke, Portsmouth, Newport News and other localities are on the rise,” Haas said. “There are certain circumstances where we need to give localities some control over innovative ways to deal with gun violence.”

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, questioned Haas’s statement. Gilbert, a member of the subcommittee, said he believes McQuinn’s bill would do little to combat gun violence, asserting that it would “not stop those bent on homicide.”

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, joined Gilbert in opposition.

“It is a bill in search of a problem,” Van Cleave said. “We haven’t been having problems in libraries. (The Citizens Defense League) holds meetings in libraries, and it’s always been well accommodated. It’s a public meeting place.”

He said such laws would be a step backward for the state.

“If we let localities start deciding on their own to ban guns, we’re back to the bad old days, prior to 2004, where a gun owner had to have a map of every locality to try to figure out where he could or couldn’t carry a gun,” he said.

“It’s so much better now. It’s nice and clean, and people can learn the gun laws and not worry about breaking them when they travel around the state.”

By Nick Versaw with Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.