The Blacksburg Town Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to ban the carrying of firearms in its municipal buildings and other public places such as streets during festivals.
Passage of the ordinance makes Blacksburg one of several Virginia localities that have taken such action — something localities can now do based on a local option measure passed by the General Assembly last year and that took effect in July.
Other localities that have passed a similar measure include Fairfax County and the cities of Alexandria and Newport News. Roanoke is considering a similar ordinance.
Some council members cited the painful memory of April 16, 2007.
“Finally we are empowered to vote on an ordinance that many, many of our residents have been requesting for years,” said Councilwoman Susan Anderson, who recalled being on the Tech campus with her students during the 2007 shooting.
Anderson clarified that she doesn’t view lawful carriers “evil or violent.”
But she’s not sure “all of them understand the fear and discomfort they cause some other folks in our town,” she said. “This message of fear has been dominant in many messages to me.”
Anderson’s colleagues echoed some of her points.
“I do not believe carrying weapons into town buildings to conduct town business adds anything to our civil discourse,” said Councilwoman Lauren Colliver.
Town Attorney Larry Spencer said the new ordinance will go into effect March 1.
Other places where firearms will be banned are town parks and town-owned recreational facilities.
Regarding the ordinance’s effect on streets, Spencer clarified that the ban would be in effect during permitted events. One such event will be the annual Steppin’ Out festival, which has in the past been linked to gun rights debates.
Several speakers on Tuesday showed both support and opposition for the measure.
Blacksburg resident Steven Gillespie praised the town for pushing the measure, especially amid the current political climate.
“I commend you for it,” he said.
Town resident David McGrath also voiced support.
“I’m suspicious of a lot of people’s desire to carry guns in public,” he said. “I think this ordinance could save lives.”
Opponents, however, voiced concerns about the ordinance stripping them of their ability to protect themselves.
“When I carry it has nothing to do with any intimidation. It’s only for the preservation of my life in a situation I deem … is a clear threat to my life,” said Christiansburg resident Scott Bunn, who added that he still considers Blacksburg home due to how frequently he is in there.