Council says no to gun-free zones

The Culpeper Town Council has approved a resolution stating that the town will not pass any ordinances establishing gun-free zones.

The resolution was passed Oct. 13 by a 5-4 vote with council members Jamie Clancey, Pranas Rimeikis, Keith Price and Meaghan Taylor dissenting.

The resolution was in response to a Virginia Code section granting localities the ability to prohibit firearms in buildings, recreation centers and parks it owns or operates. Additionally, the code allows localities to enforce such firearm prohibitions by implementing security measures including metal detectors or increased security.

This code, the resolution states, allows localities to “ban otherwise lawfully possessed and transported firearms from certain public spaces.”

Enacting such an ordinance, the resolution states, would cause “law-abiding citizens to be exposed to a patchwork of local ordinances as they travel throughout the Commonwealth.”

The resolution adds that Culpeper welcomes “law-abiding citizens who wish to live in, visit, or otherwise participate in the economy of our community,” including those “who choose to legally carry a firearm for personal protection.”

Just one of the 10-plus residents who spoke during the meeting opposed the resolution.

Mayor Michael Olinger said the town never intended to pass ordinances restricting gun rights. Due to how many people showed up in support of the resolution, he added that he would vote in favor of it.

Although he previously voted in favor of a pro-Second Amendment resolution, Price said he is “really torn” over the new resolution. He said it is just a statement of principle and does change anything. He added that the council does not need to go down a road where it passes resolutions just to advance a council member's point of view.

Councilman Keith Brown said he brought the resolution to the table because “we need to be proactive” due to occurrences in Richmond. The resolution, he added, is a statement of good faith that the town will not establish gun-free zones.

Clancey said the resolution seems to be “something that is causing division” and simply not enacting gun-free zones would be a suitable action. Since the town will not create gun-free zones, she added that the resolution is creating a non-existent problem. 

Councilman Jon Russell said a resolution is the expression of the council’s will. He said the town never requested the ability to establish gun-free zones and “I don’t want that power."

Resident Nate Clancy asked the council not to pass anything that would negatively affect citizens from being able to protect themselves.

Resident Alexander Valle asked: “If a bad guy brings a gun to gun-free zones, guess who wins?” He added that it is clear “the democrat socialist” party has a “hidden agenda right here in Culpeper.”

Resident Ian Fitzsimmons said the resolution is “a nothing burger” because “it has no effect on anything.” Passing the resolution, he noted, would not change state law and the resolution is “purely an expression of sentiment.” If the council does not want to pass any gun-related ordinances, he said they simply do not have to pass any ordinances.

“Saying you don’t want to pass legislation means nothing,” Fitzsimmons said.

Paul Moog, the founder of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said the resolution is indeed just a statement, but it is also an opportunity to show citizens where elected officials stand.

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