None of Christiansburg Councilman Steve Huppert’s colleagues on Tuesday voiced interest in pursuing an ordinance that would ban the carrying of guns in town buildings.
Huppert recently suggested that the town consider gun control measures similar to what Blacksburg adopted last month.
Starting March 1, Blacksburg will ban the carrying of firearms in town buildings, parks and streets when they are used for permitted events. The ordinance is allowed by a local option measure that was passed by the General Assembly last year and went into effect in July.
Huppert reiterated that he has nothing against the Second Amendment and people who own and carry guns.
But “there is a time and place for everything,” he said during the end-of-meeting council member reports. “I do not feel that here in council sessions, here in town hall, any public building that we … need to have a person with a gun.”
Huppert read aloud two letters of support that he said he received following a recent article in The Roanoke Times in which he spoke about his call for banning guns in buildings and other municipally-owned facilities. One of the letters, he said, was from a New River Community College professor who was there during the 2013 shooting at the school’s satellite campus in the mall now called Uptown Christiansburg.
Huppert on Tuesday asked other council members if they would be interested in letting him make a presentation on gun control some time in March, but his request failed to get any traction. Some council members immediately responded that they had no comment on the demand, with Councilman Henry Showalter telling Huppert “this isn’t part of the agenda.”
However, other members of the elected body later gave their views on the issue.
Councilwoman Merissa Sachs said she respects Huppert’s opinion, but holds a different view than him on the issue. She expressed concerns about infringing on citizens’ constitutional rights.
“I couldn’t support any measure that treads on our rights as far as the Second Amendment,” Sachs said.
Councilwoman Johana Hicks said criminals do not care about the law and won’t let an ordinance hold them back. She also voiced concerns about such an ordinance penalizing law-abiding citizens.
“I’m not for putting any restrictions on gun owners right now that obey the laws,” she said.
When it comes to gun control on municipal properties, Mayor Mike Barber said he is particularly concerned about the safety of the children who participate in sports at town recreational facilities.
Barber said he had a conversation earlier Tuesday on the topic of responsible gun owners.
“Ninety-five percent of people that have carry permits are very responsible, very professional,” the mayor said. “It’s the 5% I worry about.”
Barber, however, said the person he was talking with countered that one of those responsible owners in the 95% could prevent an incident initiated by one of the people in the troublesome 5%.
“I’m not out to take away any kind of gun rights, or anything like that,” Barber said.
Additionally, Barber raised concerns about the potential costs of putting in place measures to enforce a ban of guns in town hall. He said it would be like the courthouse where the town would need a machine, conveyor belt and some additional staff on hand.
“That’s an expense right now … that I don’t think we can bear,” Barber said. “So I’m willing to just let this drop and not have it on a future agenda.”
Hicks agreed with Barber, saying “we don’t need to bring more problems to this town council.”
Lastly, Showalter told Huppert he respects his passion toward the matter and that council has heard about the issue before.
“But … nobody’s ever decided to put this on the agenda,” Showalter said. “I would encourage you to sort of let this go.”