Toscano introduces two bills empowering localities to restrict firearms in public spaces

Legislation proposed in response to the white nationalist Unite the Right rally last August


Several militia groups bared firearms in downtown Charlottesville during the Unite the Right rally of Aug. 12.

Alexis Gravely | Cavalier Daily

Del. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) has introduced two bills to the Virginia General Assembly which would empower localities to restrict the presence of firearms in public spaces. Both bills have been assigned to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety.

HB 1019 would allow any locality to prohibit the possession of firearms or ammunition in public spaces during a permitted event. In addition to Toscano, this bill has support from Del. Mark H. Levine (D-Alexandria) and Richard C. Sullivan Jr. (D-Arlington). 

HB 1009 would add the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County to a list of localities with restricted firearm use. According to the bill, localities on the list prohibit individuals from carrying “certain loaded firearms with high-capacity magazines, silencers, folding stock or long ammunition or a loaded shotgun with a magazine that will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered.” 

State Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) proposed two similar firearm bills — SB 665 and SB 668 —  that were recently defeated in the Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee. SB 665 was defeated in a 7-8 vote and SB 668 failed in a 6-9 vote. SB 665 would have added the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County to the list of localities — including the cities of Alexandria, Richmond, Fairfax, Norfolk and Arlington, among others —  in which certain firearms are prohibited from public spaces. SB 668 would have allowed localities to regulate the possession of firearms in government buildings.

Deeds was a patron of both of Toscano’s bills. 

In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Toscano said these bills were a reaction to the deadly Unite the Right rally of Aug. 12 where armed militias were present.

"The Unite the Right rally in August was the motivation behind these bills,” Toscano said. “If passed, they would give localities greater flexibility in controlling weapons in their communities, especially at demonstrations."

Toscano has also proposed legislation this session that would empower local governments to remove confederate war monuments in response to the events of Aug. 11 and 12.

Toscano said he recognizes the difficulty of getting gun control legislation passed.

"I am always optimistic, but these bills are not going to be easy to pass,” Toscano said. “The gun rights groups still maintain a very strong hold on the General Assembly.”

Gun rights lobbyists in the Commonwealth include influential organizations like the Virginia Citizens Defense League. 

At press time, neither bill had been put on the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety’s weekly agenda to be reviewed.

Deeds and Republican members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee did not respond to request for comment by time of publication.

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