Gun Control Debate

A man carries a pistol outside the Pocahontas Building at Capitol Square in Richmond.

RICHMOND — A group of state lawmakers is going to consider changing the policy on guns at the Capitol as thousands of gun rights advocates prepare to come to Richmond to voice their opposition to gun control.

The House Rules Committee — composed of 13 Democrats and five Republicans — will examine a policy about legislators, staff and visitors carrying firearms.

Currently, anyone with a concealed handgun permit can carry a gun at the Capitol.

Lawmakers will hash out the ability to bring firearms into the Capitol, House chamber and the building housing lawmakers’ offices. The Senate adopted rules Wednesday that did not include any new directives on firearms, so it’s unclear how the policy would be effectively implemented.

“We think it’s important that to the maximum extent possible we give ourselves the tools we need to protect our members and the public,” said Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax.

House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, objected to the House Rules Committee adopting a policy without putting it to a full floor vote.

“If we’re going to establish a policy like this, then by golly, if we’re all going to be subject to it, and our employees subject to it, then we should vote on it,” Gilbert said.

A meeting date has not been set.

Gun rights advocates are expected to arrive in buses as early as next week to begin lobbying lawmakers.

In other business, lawmakers received their committee assignments this week. With new Democratic leadership, that meant some reshuffling for area legislators.

The Roanoke and New River valleys will have four lawmakers on the powerful budget-writing committees. Dels. Nick Rush, R-Montgomery, Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery, and Terry Austin, R-Botetourt, will serve on the House Appropriations Committee. In the Senate, Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, was appointed to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee.

Here are the rest of the assignments:

Edwards: Chairman of the Judiciary Committee as well as a member of Commerce and Labor, Education and Health, and Rules

Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County: Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, Education and Health, and Transportation

Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg: Commerce and Labor, Education and Health, Finance and Appropriations, and Transportation

Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath: Chairman of Privileges and Elections and member of Commerce and Labor, Judiciary, and Rules

Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County: Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, Judiciary, and Local Government

Hurst: Transportation and General Laws

Austin: Transportation and Rules

Rush: Privileges and Elections, and Public Safety

Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke: Health, Welfare and Institutions, Public Safety, Education, and Privileges and Elections

Del. Joe McNamara, D-Roanoke County: Finance and Counties, Cities and Towns

Del. Chris Head, R-Botetourt: Privileges and Elections, Labor and Commerce, and Health, Welfare and Institutions

Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin County: Finance, Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources, and Counties, Cities and Towns

The House spent Thursday debating the rules that govern the session. Meanwhile, the Senate has already been moving along legislation.

In the morning, the Education and Health Committee backed a couple of bills from Stanley aimed at repairing deteriorating public schools. They would establish a fund to replace or repair school roofs and establish minimum standards for what a modern school should be. He relayed stories of buckets in classrooms collecting rainwater and children being moved to other classrooms because of mold and ceiling tiles falling.

“This is not a proper learning environment for our children,” Stanley said.

In the afternoon, the Privileges and Elections Committee advanced a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

“We have a lot to do and not a lot of time,” Deeds said about the Senate plowing ahead on legislation.

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