RICHMOND, Va. — Gun rights advocates blasted Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s move to ban concealed handguns in state-owned office buildings Wednesday, saying the governor’s actions jeopardize public safety.
“Gun-free zones are a magnet to people who want to do harm; they are a magnet to terrorists,” said Vicki Lindsey from Chesterfield, echoing similar comments made by several other advocates.
McAuliffe issued an emergency executive order last year banning concealed guns from most state-owned office buildings as part of a package of measures he said would prevent gun violence. The state’s Department of General Services took public comment in Richmond on Wednesday as part of its process for making the governor’s order permanent, likely in the early part of next year.
The Democratic governor, an outspoken advocate for greater gun control measures, is unlikely to reverse course, despite the opposition raised at Wednesday’s hearing. Republican lawmakers have denounced McAuliffe’s order, but don’t have enough votes to pass veto-proof legislation to undo it.
Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said public opinion is overwhelmingly against McAuliffe’s proposal. He said McAuliffe’s order punishes law-abiding citizens and noted that concealed-carry holders have to pass a criminal background check to get a permit.
“It’s just political overreach,” he said. “This does not make the public safer.”
But Lori Haas, the Virginia director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence whose daughter is a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shootings, said concealed-handgun owners aren’t required to undergo any meaningful training to get a permit and the public is better served by having well-trained law enforcement officers responsible for maintaining safety in government-owned buildings.