Del. Lee Carter, D-50th, says he has received numerous death threats over pre-filed legislation in the General Assembly, including some deemed serious enough to report to law enforcement. He says the rancor stems from a misrepresentation of his proposal that has spread in the echo chambers of social media.
Carter’s proposed bill, H.B. 67, would allow public sector employees to strike without risking termination, but it exempts public safety officers from the rule, meaning that police officers would continue to face termination for willfully refusing to do their jobs. State law currently mandates that any public employees (including law enforcement) who strike be fired and deemed ineligible for public employment for 12 months.
Some individuals and groups on social media have suggested that Carter is targeting local law enforcement at a time when these officers are being encouraged by gun rights advocates to refuse to enforce any new gun laws expected to win approval in Richmond this year.
Carter said it’s a misinterpretation to link the two issues — his year-long effort to protect striking government workers and the new suggestion by some Virginians that local law enforcement agencies should refuse to enforce gun laws.
“There’s folks out there that don’t understand — there’s no difference between text that’s already in the code and the new text [with regard to law enforcement],” he said. “And it’s just enough to fuel a dangerous conspiracy theory.”
Carter said he first noticed the threats after a Dec. 13 Facebook post from the Charlottesville Fraternal Order of Police Associates - Lodge 5, which claims Carter’s bill would “remove law enforcement officers from office if they won’t enforce unconstitutional gun laws.”
"We firmly denounce any sort of political violence and it is abundantly clear from our post that no threats were made or encouraged," said Will Lyster, president of the Charlottesville FOPA. "Mr. Carter's aspersions aside, there is no evidence that casting light on his proposed legislation is anything but a public good and indeed, a necessary part of democracy."
Carter says he’s received too many threats to count, and has considered a handful serious enough to refer to Capitol Police in Richmond for investigation.
“There have been a lot of people discussing assassinating me, assassinating other elected Democrats, including the governor and the attorney general,” Carter said.
Capitol Police spokesperson Joe Macenka declined to say whether there is an ongoing investigation.
“The delegate has reached out to the Division of Capitol Police to express his concern about a matter,” Macenka said in a statement. “We are a fully accredited police agency, and as such, there are procedures we follow regarding such matters involving members of the General Assembly and their staffs. We are currently following those procedures and will continue to do so.”