Portsmouth council member under fire for carrying rifle at city council meeting on gun rights

Posted at 5:56 PM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-15 20:20:30-05

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Portsmouth is the latest city in Hampton Roads to pass legislation to be recognized as a Second Amendment city, but it’s not the vote that has some people upset.

Some community members are angry after Councilman Nathan Clark showed up to the Tuesday night meeting carrying a rifle.

Councilman Nathan Clark (Photo: News 3 reporter Julio Avila)

Clark told News 3 he was carrying a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 rifle at the Portsmouth City Hall meeting, where gun rights where discussed.

The firearm was on a strap hanging from his body. The image sparked outrage online.

Community activist Barry Randall says he was disgusted.

“You wouldn’t walk into 7-Eleven with an assault weapon. He wouldn’t walk into the library with an assault weapon, so why would you walk into the council chambers?" questioned Randall.

Clark openly carried the rifle around his body during the council meeting over the highly-contentious gun rights debate where the city voted 4-3 to pass a resolution to make the city a Second Amendment "constitutional" city.

Clark says the gun was loaded and he has training on weapons like like this. He said he made that clear during the meeting.

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable coming to talk to my elected official and they have an assault weapon,” says Randall.

Clark says sometime actions speak louder than words.

"I had a lot of people come and talk to me after it," says Clark. "No one appeared intimidated. There the police officers that were there; they were aware that I had it."

Randall says he wasn’t at the meeting, but he says he heard from plenty of people who were.

“It made people uncomfortable in the room."

Facebook posts with dozens of comments and shares circulated online, condemning Clark’s actions. One person commented writing they were “scared” and it was “unprofessional.”

But even though it’s legal, some say it was insensitive.

“Our community, especially people of color, we are concerned. We are concerned that he took this opportunity to grandstand on an issue that just happened last year that killed innocent lives [at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center]."

Clark doesn’t see it that way and says he can't control how others perceive things.

"It was not my intent...  I was there proving a point, exercising my personal Second Amendment rights."

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