Visitors to Va. state house can still carry guns

The Capitol building is bathed in sunlight in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber(ASSOCIATED PRESS/Steve Helber)
WASHINGTON — Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates rejected a measure that would have banned firearms in the house gallery while lawmakers are in session.

The proposal was brought forward by Democratic Del. Kathleen Murphy, who argued that visitors should not be armed while delegates are on the floor.

It was voted down Monday 49 to 48 along party lines, with Democrats supporting the measure and Republicans opposed.

A similar gun ban is already in place on the Senate side of Virginia’s General Assembly.

“I’ve asked for this rule change so that our rules are consistent with your colleagues in the senate,” Murphy said. “It is not an effort to infringe on anyone’s right to bear arms. It is an effort to ensure our safety.”

Murphy pointed to gun violence nationally at schools, music venues and churches and said security staff at the state capitol building agreed with her that firearms should not be allowed during the lawmaking process.

“All it would take is one bad actor,” she said. “Just look behind you and look up. You’re a sitting duck. You never want the enemy above and behind you.”

Republicans, such as Del. Ben Cline, claimed that Murphy’s proposal would in fact infringe on the rights of visitors.

“You should not have to give up one right to protect another,” Cline said. “We want to ensure that everyone can come watch the oldest continually elected lawmaking body in the western world. If they feel they need to be protected then they should be able to do that.”

House Majority Leader, Republican Todd Gilbert, sided with Cline.

“When we look at those people, we do not see the enemy,” Gilbert said, criticizing Murphy’s comment. “We see law abiding citizens.”

Gilbert noted that everyone who takes a gun into the capitol building must have a concealed carry permit, regardless of whether the weapon is concealed.

“Concealed carry permit holders, year in and year out, are demonstrated to be the most law abiding people in society,” Gilbert said.

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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