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City of Norfolk postpones vote on ordinance to ban guns from public properties

Councilwoman Andria McClellan said that an error in the proposed ordinance was what prompted the city attorney to pull it from the agenda.
Credit: Stegarau, Thinkstock

NORFOLK, Va. — Norfolk city council members will deliberate on a proposed firearms ordinance at a later date.

The city attorney pulled it from Tuesday night's agenda "to allow further deliberation and revision."

The ordinance would have altered city code to ban most people from carrying or transporting guns in government buildings, parks, roads and properties.

The Norfolk City Attorney released this statement Tuesday afternoon:

“The City Council is no longer scheduled to vote on the proposed firearms ordinance at its 8/25 meeting.  The proposed firearms ordinance has been removed from the 8/25 docket to allow further deliberation and revision.  The proposed firearms ordinance was listed as R-12 on the council docket of 8/25/20.  It has been removed from the 8/25 docket.”

According to City Councilwoman Andria McClellan, there was an error in the statute's language which prompted the city attorney to remove it from the docket. She clarified on Facebook that the language in the ordinance caused some questions.

"In the original ordinance, the definition in 47-32 (a) and the transmittal/cover letter are causing people to question whether the proposed gun prohibition generally extends to public rights of way (streets and sidewalks). It does NOT.

What was presented to Council previously, and provided in the ordinance, was a prohibition of firearms in “event areas,” which is defined to be a permitted event on a public right of way; for instance, guns could be prohibited at a First Friday event held on Granby Street or if Waterside Drive were closed for a special city-sponsored event.  The current language has caused confusion and alarm (suggesting that firearms are generally prohibited on sidewalks, streets, etc. which is NOT the intent of the ordinance)  and needs revision.  Thus, the ordinance has been pulled."

The proposed amendment would change Article 47 from the city's code, which has been in place since 1979.

Here's how the proposed, amended ordinance was worded:

No person shall possess, carry, or transport any firearm, ammunition, or components or combinations thereof (a) in any public building, (b) in any public park, (c) in any recreation or community center facility or (d) in any event area; provided that such area has been marked with signage describing the provisions of this article posted at all entrances to each such public building, public park, recreation or community center facility, or event area. 

This doesn't stop law enforcement or uniformed members of the military from carrying firearms related to their official duties. It also wouldn't penalize legal gun owners from having guns locked up in their privately owned cars or boats.

It would prohibit otherwise legal gun owners from concealed- or open-carrying at Norfolk's city properties, though. 

That goes for the usual government buildings and parks, but also includes the National Maritime Center, the Norfolk Botanical Gardens and the Virginia Zoo. 

Any violation would qualify as a class 1 misdemeanor, which could mean up to a year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.

There's no word yet on when the city council will vote on the ordinance.