Norfolk tables ordinance banning guns on city property after backlash over misleading wording

Posted at 4:12 PM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 16:25:33-04

NORFOLK, Va.— A Norfolk firearm ordinance is sparking outrage and confusion.

“The city screwed up in terms of what it put out there, and we're going to fix that,” said Norfolk City Councilmember Andria McClellan.

Norfolk City Council is taking heat for a cover letter on a proposed firearms ordinance that would prohibit guns or ammo in public buildings, parks and recreational facilities.

The ordinance is also intended to prohibit guns on streets and sidewalks only when events that would require a city permit are taking place.

“For example, if we were to shut down Waterside Drive or Granby Street, it would be then where those [guns or ammo] would be prohibited,” explained McClellan.

The language in the ordinance clearly states the stipulation when guns and ammo are banned on streets, but the cover letter signed by the city attorney leaves out those details. The cover letter doesn’t specify when guns would be banned on streets and sidewalks, leaving some to believe the ordinance is farther-reaching than intended.

“This was an oversight. It's unfortunate, and we need to correct that,” she said.

The oversight, as McClellan describes it, contributed to an onslaught of citizen complaints and confusion - so much so that the agenda setting committee removed the ordinance from Tuesday night’s docket.

The City Attorney’s Office says council wants to further consider and deliberate the issues.

Meanwhile, some citizens are vocally speaking out against it.

“The Constitution says the rights shall not be infringed. It doesn’t say government grants you the right; it says the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and what the city is proposing is infringing on my Second Amendment rights,” said Chairman of the Republican Party of Norfolk, Robert Brown.

The general assembly passed a law this year allowing localities to regulate firearms on public property that went into effect July 1.

Brown believes if council wants to follow the lead of cities like Newport News, which have passed similar ordinances, then the city needs to be liable for lives.

“If some nut comes in and shoots up the place... if I can’t defend myself or [any] law-abiding citizen can’t defend themselves, the city needs to be responsible. That’s our position, and it’s not going to change,” said Brown.

If eventually passed by council, defying the ordinance would be a Class 1 Misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.