Gun Toters at City Hall (Richmond, VA)

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    VIP Member Array paramedic70002's Avatar
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    Gun Toters at City Hall (Richmond, VA)

    Richmond Free Press

    Council members express uneasiness,need for new law



    By Jeremy M. Lazarus



    Bruce Tyler wonders whether a bulletproof vest should be part of his City Council wardrobe. He’s only partly joking. The 1st District councilman has body armor on his mind after he and his eight colleagues had to face a glowering group of 10 men, some carrying firearms, who shockingly showed up at the Nov. 23 council meeting at City Hall.“I am very uncomfortable around guns,” Mr. Tyler said this week in the wake of the meeting where a pistol-toting few came to lobby council. Their issue: Opposition to the council’s latest push for state controls on gun sales, particularly at laxly regulated gun shows. Having gun advocates brazenly showing their weapons “definitely made me uncomfortable,” said Mr. Tyler, an architect.


    In a Free Press inquiry Tuesday, four other council members also expressed concern at having to conduct city business in front of people wearing weapons in shoulder holsters or on their belts. The pistol-packing men were members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Most displayed orange stickers on their shirts stating “Guns Save Lives” in a city in which shootings are all too common.


    “I support the right of people to bear arms to protect themselves,” a still seething Council Vice President Ellen F. Robertson, 6th District, said, “but I see no reason why people have to bring their weapons into an arena where there is no perceived threat.” “It wasn’t appropriate,” said Chris A. Hilbert, 3rd District, who lost his father to gun violence.


    “I wasn’t very happy about it,” said Council President Kathy C. Graziano, 4th district, “but I don’t think there is much we can do about it.” And that seems to be the case. Local officials have been stripped of authority to impose any restrictions on guns, gun sales and gun carrying by a General Assembly majority that has embraced the gun culture advocated by the likes of Philip Van Cleave, who led the pro-gun league members to City Council.


    The specific law that bars council action is 15.2-915 of the Virginia Code, which, in part, states: “No locality shall adopt or enforce any ordinance … governing the purchase, possession, transfer ownership, carrying, storage or transporting of firearms ammunition, or components … “ So while Councilman E. Martin “Marty” Jewell, 5th District, believes that “if people come armed to City Hall, we ought to be able to turn them away,” the council has no way to make that law, according to outgoing City Attorney Norman Sales. In Ms. Robertson’s opinion, Richmond Police officers should at least be able to check that people who come to City Hall “carrying weapons are carrying weapons that are unloaded.”


    However, Richmond Police attorney Victoria Benjamin said this week that wearing unconcealed guns into City Hall is legal and officers would first need probable cause that the owner represented a threat to make such a check. As it now stands, schools, courthouses, airports and restaurants that sell liquor are among the few places in the state where guns are still banned by the Virginia legislature. But it has taken repeated governor vetoes to maintain the ban on carrying concealed guns into places selling alcohol.


    The legislature also has made it easier for citizens to get permits to carry concealed guns and expanded the places where they can be carried. Today permit-carrying citizens can openly wear their guns into the State Capitol, though the Executive Mansion is still off limits. As a result, Mr. Hilbert sees little value in trying to bring back metal detectors. Richmond experimented with metal detectors atCity Hall after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but discarded them in 2005 as an unnecessary expense.


    Ms. Graziano agrees. If people can openly carry weapons, she said, “Metal detectors would not do much good.” That is the reason, the council members argue, for new legislation that would end legal gun-toting at City Council meetings and other public meetings. “I think that is a reasonable thing to do,” Mr. Hilbert said.

    My letter to: Richmond Free Press
    Editor,

    RE: The article "Gun Toters at City Hall" in the December 10-12 edition, Council Vice President Ellen F. Robertson states (while still seething), “I support the right of people to bear arms to protect themselves, but I see no reason why people have to bring their weapons into an arena where there is no perceived threat," and Chris Hilbert stated, "It wasn't appropriate."

    Apparently these Council members believe in the percentage theory of rights. Perhaps Mr. Lazarus can do a followup and find out exactly what percentage of a right that these elected representatives think the citizens should possess, as well as which other rights guaranteed by our Constitution fall under this theory. Can we look forward to them giving us a proclamation that secures these partial rights so that we know where we stand in the city of Richmond?

    Should I give up my right to be armed, my right to self protection, and be defenseless to and from city hall meetings so that no one's feelings are hurt? Do armed citizens interfere with their non- Constitutional right to be comfortable? Should I leave my weapon in my car or home to be stolen?

    And lastly, why would I go anywhere I 'perceived a need for a gun'? That's illogical. I guess the Richmond city council is unfamiliar with the concept of 'random violence.'
    "Each worker carried his sword strapped to his side." Nehemiah 4:18

    Guns Save Lives. Paramedics Save Lives. But...
    Paramedics With Guns Scare People!

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    Senior Member Array TheGreatGonzo's Avatar
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    A hearty "well done" for the members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League who were part of this. Seems quite well handled.
    Gonzo
    "Skin that smokewagon!".

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    Senior Member Array TheGreatGonzo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paramedic70002 View Post
    “I support the right of people to bear arms to protect themselves,” a still seething Council Vice President Ellen F. Robertson, 6th District, said, “but I see no reason why people have to bring their weapons into an arena where there is no perceived threat.”

    6 dead in shooting rampage at Kirkwood City Council

    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    6 dead in shooting rampage at Kirkwood City Council - STLtoday.com

    UPDATED 3:45 p.m.
    February 7, 2008

    The gunman who opened fire on a Kirkwood City Council meeting left a one-line note for his brother before the shootings, which said: "The Truth will win in the end."

    Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton left the unsigned note on a bed in a bedroom of the house where they both were living, and Gerald Thornton found it after the shooting rampage Thursday night that left two police officers, three city officials and the gunman dead.

    Charles Thornton stormed into the Kirkwood City Hall on Thursday night and used two weapons -- his own revolver and a cop's gun he took from an officer who was the first victim of the deadly rampage.

    Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton carried a large-caliber revolver that he used to shoot and kill Kirkwood Police Sgt. William Biggs outside City Hall about 7 p.m. Thursday. Then, he grabbed Biggs' .40-caliber handgun and walked into the council chambers with both guns.

    Within minutes, he had killed five people -- Biggs, Police Officer Tom Ballman, Councilwoman Connie Karr, Councilman Mike Lynch and Public Works Director Kenneth Yost -- before Kirkwood officers shot and killed Thornton.

    Neither slain officer had had time to draw his weapon to fight back, police say.

    Kirkwood Mayor Mike Swoboda was shot and underwent surgery Friday at St. John's Mercy Medical Center, where he was in critical condition this afternoon. A hospital spokesman said the mayor has been in critical condition since he arrived at the hospital. Another victim, Suburban Journals newspaper reporter Todd Smith, was in satisfactory condition with a gunshot wound to the hand.

    In a brief news conference this morning, Deputy Mayor Tim Griffin said the city is in mourning.

    "We want to thank the officers who bravely and heroically came to the rescue of those of us in the council chambers," said Griffin.

    "The business of the city will continue and we will recover, but we will never be the same," he added. "The healing process starts now."

    According to a sequence of events offered by police, Thornton parked on the street between City Hall and the Kirkwood Police Department. He crossed the street and walked up to Biggs, who had just come out of the police station on his way to grab a pizza at Imo's.

    "He approached Biggs and we don't know what happened between them, but then he shot Biggs," said County Police Officer Tracy Panus.

    "He intially had one gun, a large-caliber revolver. After he shot Biggs, he did take his gun and at that point he had two guns."

    Biggs was able to hit the alert tone on his radio at some point during the confrontation, and that tone summoned help.

    Officers rushed outside, heard the commotion inside City Hall and ran there to confront Thornton.

    "They engaged with him in gunfire," Panus said.

    No word on how many shots were fired in all.

    Thornton's body was found in a far corner of the council chambers, behind a desk.

    The gunmans' brother, Gerald Thornton, reiterated today that his brother believed he was "going to war" with a city that did not respect his rights.

    "I knew a lot, because my brother talked to me about it," he said.


    Kirkwood Police Chief Jack Plummer's department lost one officer, Sgt. Bill McEntee, in 2005. McEntee was gunned down in the city's Meacham Park neighborhood by Kevin Johnson. Johnson was convicted late last year and sentenced to death earlier this month.

    At today's news conference, Plummer said: "We've all been here before, unfortunately, and we will move past this."

    "There's an old phrase, 'you don't get more than you can handle.' That's being tested but we'll get through it. We ask for your help."

    Griffin, the deputy mayor, said Kirkwood is a great community that will pull through.

    "We will carry on," he said. "We do this first by honoring the victims and by supporting their families."

    Meanwhile, police duties in Kirkwood are being handled by St. Louis County police officers and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Panus said Kirkwood requested the assistance. The state and county officers will respond to all police calls in Kirkwood "until further notice," Panus said.
    "Skin that smokewagon!".

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    Senior Member Array Bob O's Avatar
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    The reporter did a very objective on this. Finally, REAL journalism instead of the reporter's opinion!
    One error in following quote:
    As it now stands, schools, courthouses, airports and restaurants that sell liquor are among the few places in the state where guns are still banned by the Virginia legislature. But it has taken repeated governor vetoes to maintain the ban on carrying concealed guns into places selling alcohol.
    Concealed Carry is illegal (except by management), but Open Carry is legal. Hence, "the Virginia tuck".

    Bobo
    Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other"
    ~John Adams

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    VIP Member Array packinnova's Avatar
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    “I am very uncomfortable around guns,”
    GOOD! Maybe that will help you remember what your job IS and what it IS NOT.
    "My God David, We're a Civilized society."

    "Sure, As long as the machines are workin' and you can call 911. But you take those things away, you throw people in the dark, and you scare the **** out of them; no more rules...You'll see how primitive they can get."
    -The Mist (2007)

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    Anyone who lives in Richmond has plenty of reason to be nervous. While the city is the state capital and home to VCU/MCV it's a slum. The state would be no worse off is someone was to flush and let it go down the sewer.

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    Member Array Holger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob O View Post
    The reporter did a very objective on this. Finally, REAL journalism instead of the reporter's opinion!
    One error in following quote:


    Concealed Carry is illegal (except by management), but Open Carry is legal. Hence, "the Virginia tuck".

    Bobo
    Purely by accident. The Richmond Free Press is a self-described "progressive" newspaper that openly advocates for all manner of liberal causes, specifically those that advance the African-American community.

    The language in the article is designed to do nothing but paint an image of the VCDL as nutjobs. (full disclosure: I'm a member of the VCDL). Phillip Van Cleave gives a much different account of the meeting:

    Very interesting and long night at the Richmond City Council meeting tonight. We had over twenty members present. The Dark Side had five.

    I had signed up to speak at the meeting three weeks ago by contacting the City Clerk, who dutifully took down my name and said I was good to go for November 23rd. She also asked what I was going to be talking about.

    But, tonight when City Council finally got to public comment, they
    called 6 names only, 3 of which were anti-gunners who praised the
    Mayor for joining up with Bloomberg's anti-gun coalition.

    MY NAME WAS NEVER CALLED and they moved on to other business quickly.

    I got up and walked to the front of the room and proceeded over to a police officer who was stationed near a door and explained the
    situation, but he didn't really know how I could get City Council a
    message about having skipped me. (I was told that while I was walking along the front of the room looking for the correct person to talk to, the City Council President, Kathy Graziano, and Vice-President, Ellen Robertson, were watching me and smirking. I think they figured that I was "shut out" of speaking.)

    Next thing I knew, Council was calling for public input on another
    matter and I stepped up to the microphone and explained that they had not called me, I had signed up, and I was there to address them.

    The President looked like she had just bit hard into a fresh lemon.
    Clearly she absolutely did not want me to speak, but spat out that I
    could have my 3 minutes after their current business was over. I
    said, "OK" and sat down.

    Member Joe Lignon, who had tried to sign up to speak earlier that day and was told that only eight were allowed and all slots were filled, went to the mike after me to complain that only 6 had spoken and not 8 as he had been told. He tried to ask why he couldn't be given a slot.

    The President in a very hostile way said that Joe was out of order and demanded that he sit down. Joe gave up and sat down.

    (BTW, my thanks to Joe who was set to fill in for me if I didn't get
    back from Mack Elliott's visitation in time to speak.)

    Finally I got my chance to speak toward the very end of the meeting. (In fact they made me wait through several extra agenda items before recognizing me.)

    Besides speaking about Bloomberg, I also spoke on City Council's
    legislative agenda, of which there were copies at the meeting. I said
    that I objected to City Council wishing to restrict the otherwise
    lawful carry of guns into government buildings and recreation
    facilities and their wishing to close the non-existent "gun show
    loophole."

    City Councilman Martin Jewell called me back to the microphone to ask me why I hadn't gone into detail about what Bloomberg was doing that wasn't aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. I explained that I only had 3 minutes and there wasn't time. But since he asked, I explained a little about Bloomberg.

    Afterwards twelve of us went to eat and as luck would have it, about
    fifteen minutes after we arrived, in walks Councilman Jewell! We all
    saw this as an opportunity to get him to understand exactly what
    Bloomberg is really up to.

    He engaged us in conversation and we had a polite back and forth with him for about 10 minutes. There was quite a bit he didn't know about Bloomberg and Bloomberg's disgraceful history here in Virginia. I think we got his curiosity up.

    Unfortunately, the antis underhanded tactic of not letting me speak
    when I was supposed to meant that many had left the meeting, including the press, by the time I finally got my chance.

    But, you know what they say about he who laughs last... Let's see
    what happens when the rubber meets the road in the General Assembly in January.


    Though it's getting better, the Richmond crime rate has been historically high. I think the Richmond Free Press would be better served investigating the out of control black on black crime on the East and North sides instead of the VCDL.

    Here's the City Council website:
    Welcome

    Kathy Graziano's profession? Lobbyist. Oh well, this is a city in which the recent Mayor, Doug Wilder (D) (the first African-American governor of VA, by the way) refused to endorse Creigh Deeds (D) for governor over Bob McDonnell (R) because he thought Deeds was too conservative on guns. Richmond is a great city, but it has a lot of problems. Legal gun owners ain't one of them.

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    Member Array nitrohead's Avatar
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    “I support the right of people to bear arms to protect themselves,” a still seething Council Vice President Ellen F. Robertson, 6th District, said, “but I see no reason why people have to bring their weapons into an arena where there is no perceived threat.” “It wasn’t appropriate,” said Chris A. Hilbert, 3rd District, who lost his father to gun violence.


    This guy just doesn't get it. It was a peaceful demonstration by those exercising their 2A rights. As for his statement, at what point is there NOT a perceived threat. If the threats around us were so easily perceived, then it would be easy for us to simply avoid those situations. It's the non-perceived threats that we need to protect ourselves from. Are the two guys sitting across the room at the IHOP eating their Belgian Waffles a perceived threat? Well, no, but if they get up, draw a weapon, and start robbing the patrons, then they ARE!

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    Member Array Holger's Avatar
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    These are the exact same types of politicians that will (and DO) say things like "I support the right of free speech, but I see no reason why people should have the right to say things I think are hateful or with which I disagree."

    Liberals have an extreme tendency to support illiberal policies, which is just bizarre. As long as you agree with them, fine. Once you disagree, you are clearly wrongheaded and shouldn't be able to air your thoughts and ideas in a public forum. Like I said, bizarre.

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    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    “I support the right of people to bear arms to protect themselves,” a still seething Council Vice President Ellen F. Robertson, 6th District, said, “but I see no reason why people have to bring their weapons into an arena where there is no perceived threat.” “It wasn’t appropriate,” said Chris A. Hilbert, 3rd District, who lost his father to gun violence.


    Gads is that naive.

    That's the difference, mister Robertson. Dead dad or not, the reality is this: in any public gathering, there is a potential threat of criminals being in that crowd. You cannot stop that from being true, short of full strip/cavity searches and a tight cordon through a single choke-point.

    Mr. Robertson, you seem to think threat cannot exist unless it's "perceived." Well, in most any surprise attack, one second after perception it's pretty darned difficult to fling "Just Say 'No'!" comments at the criminals and think they'll curl up in a ball to await arrest. Awaiting "perception" of a threat is simply too late: waiting until then means everyone is a victim.

    I realize the potential for threat in any mixed crowd. Perception will only happen at the point of launch of the attack, generally speaking.

    It could be considered insane to think that in any group of ~500 people standing near City Hall within 20mins preceding a City Council meeting that there wouldn't be at least a handful of criminals amongst the group. It's almost certain. Unless you do a strip/cavity search of everyone who comes near a place, you're not likely to eliminate risky items that could be used by a criminal to harm others.

    It's all but impossible to stop a weapon-toting criminal or two from entering a public meeting room and thereby having the means of harming others.

    Thus, the ONLY real way people can have the means of defending against what such folks could bring into public places is: be armed, able to withstand attack, able to survive until the cavalry arrives. It's that simple.

    Fearful sheep will always make excuses as to why that's not possible. They can be as uncomfortable as they choose around upstanding citizens being well-armed and capable of defending against attack. But it doesn't change reality, that criminals exist and are hidden from view. They cannot be so naive as to think that all public gatherings of people are somehow magically free of criminals simply because they say so, or because they erect pretty little signs, or criminalize upstanding activity.

    Question: Did anyone hear about the fearful school that went into full "lock-down" the other day, due to hearing of "duck hunters" being within a mile of the school grounds?
    Your best weapon is your brain. Don't leave home without it.
    Thoughts: Justifiable self defense (A.O.J.).
    Explain: How does disarming victims reduce the number of victims?
    Reason over Force: The Gun is Civilization (Marko Kloos).
    NRA, GOA, OFF, ACLDN.

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    Distinguished Member Array tiwee's Avatar
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    If the council, staff, and public had been carrying concealed at the Kirkwood, MO city council meeting, murderer Thornton could have been stopped much more quickly, which I believe was TheGreatGonzo's point.

    Holger:
    Purely by accident. The Richmond Free Press is a self-described "progressive" newspaper that openly advocates for all manner of liberal causes, specifically those that advance the African-American community.
    If this paper wanted to improve the circumstances in poor communities, it would be campaigning for concealed carry weapons on every citizen. The vast majority of people in poor neighborhoods are decent people. They need to be told, encouraged, cajoled, convinced, and everything else to get their permits and start packing. Then and only then will they be able to wrest control of the streets from the thugs.

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