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Richmond Mayor Proposes Broad Gun Ban, Drawing Concerns

man with a rifle strapped to his back is standing across the street from dozens of rally attendees
Thousands of Second Amendment supporters, many openly carrying rifles, rallied near Capitol Square on January 20. (Roberto Roldan/VPM News)

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is proposing a ban on firearms at public gatherings in the city. 

The proposal comes after months of Black Live Matter protests where some demonstrators have been openly armed. The ordinance proposed by Mayor Stoney would ban the possession of guns on public roads, sidewalks and parks “when a permitted event, or an event that should be permitted, is taking place.” According to the city’s broad definition, almost any event held on public property should require a permit.

Stoney said in a press release Monday night that his intent with introducing the paper is to ensure the public is safe.

“Under this proposed change, Richmond residents will be able to attend public events with a greater sense of security, knowing that the city is actively prioritizing their safety,” Stoney said. 

Over the past year, Richmond has hosted numerous pro-Second Amendment rallies, usually centering around the state capitol grounds. The city also saw dozens of Black Lives Matter protests over the past two months. Some of those activists disagree with Stoney’s assertion that the ordinance would provide more safety.

Kristopher Goad, who has documented recent anti-police brutality protests in Richmond and demonstrated against white supremacists, said the gun ban could leave protesters less protected from people who disagree with their goals. 

“Right here in Richmond, a Klansman drove his truck [into a protest] and he’s going to go to jail for years over this,” he said. “Having a firearm is needed, because there are very violent, malicious people that want to hurt people that say ‘Black Lives Matter.’”

In addition to that incident, Richmond protesters near the Robert E. Lee statue were also hit by a truck that later fled the scene. Goad also said he’s concerned Richmond Police would use the new ordinance to selectively target protesters critical of police.

Although they may not agree on much else politically, Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave echoed Goad’s concern that the ordinance would not lead to safety. The VCDL holds yearly rallies at the capitol where most demonstrators openly carry rifles.

“We will be opposing yet another attack on peaceful gun owners, while Richmond ignores rioters destroying the city,” Van Cleave said via text message. “The proposed ordinance is about politics, not public safety.”

The proposed ordinance was introduced at a special meeting of Richmond City Council Monday night. It will now be vetted and voted on by City Council in the coming months.