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City council approves requests for future smoking, gun bans

Requests sent to Richmond, if approved, will grant city council ability to enact restrictions

Charlottesville City Council approved a series of legislative requests Monday asking the Virginia General Assembly to give Council the authority to impose regulations on firearms, smoking and even car idling.

Currently, the state retains the right to enact gun control legislation, though eight cities and five counties have been granted the right to independently enact restrictions, including Fairfax and Henrico counties and the cities of Richmond and Virginia Beach.

If the city’s request is approved, Charlottesville would be able to enact restrictions on “certain loaded semi-automatic rifles, pistols or shotguns,” including firearms “that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock,” the request said.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, a number of Charlottesville residents expressed discontent at the proposed gun control regulations. One resident brought a baseball bat, which he presented as a dangerous, yet tolerated weapon.

“I looked up an article by the FBI, and they say that when you take away the gun deaths by gangbangers in Chicago and Baltimore and Richmond, this instrument here is the leading instrument of homicide in America,” he said. “Are you also planning on banning baseball bats from Charlottesville? It starts to get a little absurd after a while.”

Vice Mayor Kristin Szakos said this request would not automatically lead to any restrictions upon the public carrying of guns, and would only allow the city to create future restrictions.

“In a way it’s not even something we need to talk about now, because we are not asking to impose gun restrictions; we are asking for the right to make gun restrictions locally,” she said. “So if we pass this this evening, it doesn’t say that we have imposed gun restrictions; it says that we believe that as a locality, we should have the right to decide that for our own community.”

Council also requested the ability to restrict smoking tobacco products in certain public parks, but Charlottesville Deputy Attorney Richard Harris said that approval was less likely to pass for that request because public support was not very high.