NORFOLK, Va. - Baxter Simmons is the Baxter behind the well-known Baxter’s Sports Lounge on downtown Norfolk's Granby Street.
“You've got a very visible spot with the big sign out front [and] just a block off Brambleton [Ave.],” Simmons told News 3. “We're right in the action downtown.”
The recent mass shooting happening down the street outside other bars and restaurants a little more than a week ago, where a local semi-pro football player and a reporter with the Virginian-Pilotwere both killed, is still fresh on his mind.
“That incident was definitely a tragedy,” Simmons said. “There's only so much that we can control, and we make our best effort just like everybody else.”
“It really is just unfortunate that there's a rise in that,” Simmons added about the recent gun violence in Hampton Roads. “That people are making those snap decisions, and choosing the violence over working through issues and things like that.”
The recent gun violence led News 3 to look into the Virginia code on where you can and can't carry a firearm.
“Virginia is an open-carry state, and there are some exceptions to that,” Richmond-based Criminal Defense Attorney Todd Stone said. “There's always firearms cases, and it seems like they're getting to be more and more frequent.”
News 3 asked Stone, in terms of public spaces, where you can't carry a firearm.
“Generally speaking, not in church, not in court, not in school, and not in the airport,” he said.
But what about restaurants and bars?
“You can carry a firearm in a restaurant, but if you're consuming alcohol, no,” Stone said. “If someone is under the influence of alcohol and carrying a concealed weapon at a restaurant, they would lose their permit to carry a concealed permit for 5 years and they'd be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable with up to 12 months in jail.”
Restaurants and bars are typically on private property which means establishments have their own discretion to ban firearms entirely. If you are carrying a firearm in a private establishment, that restaurant or bar reserves the right to ask you to leave. If you don't comply with that request, it's then considered trespassing.
“Assuming it's a private entity, which it almost always is, the restaurant owner has the authority to ban someone from coming in with a firearm and to make them leave if they do come in with a firearm,” Stone said.
News 3 asked Simmons what the policy is at Baxter’s Sports Lounge on Granby Street regarding firearms on the property.
“Our policy is please no weapons of any type. No firearms. No knives. Nothing like that,” Simmons said. “We do serve alcohol, and if somebody gets the urge to drink, we don't want their decisions compromised.”
“It seems that more and more frequently you see signs on the windows coming into a restaurant, or on the doors coming into the restaurant,” Stone said.
Stone believes it's best to do your homework before you carry in public, whether open or concealed.
“I think it would be advisable for the government to get the information out to people,” Stone said. “Guns seemed to be more prevalent than they ever been, but the information about what's legal and what's not legal isn't as prevalent as it seems.”
Stone said another rule in Virginia is an absolute ban on carrying a firearm with more than 20 rounds in cities including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Richmond.