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Roanoke City Council votes to ban guns from buildings and parks

Roanoke Valley Gun Show to be affected, though not immediately
Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 9:51 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke’s City Council approved new gun control measures Monday night. Anyone caught violating the new ordinance could face up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Under the new rules, people are banned from taking guns into city buildings and parks. That includes the Berglund Center, which hosts the Roanoke Valley Gun Show.

Roanoke City Attorney Tim Spencer said while the ordinance is “effective immediately,” the ban will not be enforceable until new signs are in place. That means the gun show scheduled for March 20-21 will be unaffected. He is unsure how soon the new signs will go up.

There are some exceptions to the ban, including law enforcement officers, and historical reenactors, among others. A last-minute change added parades to the list of exceptions, after Councilman Bill Bestpitch raised concerns about the Veterans’ Day parade.

Council approved the ordinance on a 6-1 vote. Stephanie Moon Reynolds was the only no.

“If we move forward and adopt this ordinance, it is my opinion we will be offering the public a false sense of security,” said Reyonds, citing concerns that the city would be unable to enforce the ban in parks and on trails.

Reynolds, alongside Bestpitch and Vivian Sanchez-Jones, tried to get council to delay the vote. During the meeting, Sanchez-Jones voiced concerns, saying, “I have a hard time voting for a measure that blankets the entirety of city-owned property in gun-free zones.”

Bestpitch worried the ban could draw lawsuits from gun rights groups. The NRA is suing Fairfax County over a similar ordinance.

Council’s vote came after a lengthy public hearing. More than 40 people called in, most in favor of the ban. Those opposed included Philip Van Cleve, the president of the Virginia Citizens’ Defense League.

Council considered multiple versions of the gun ban before taking the vote. One version (the one that had been published on the city’s website) included an exception for the Roanoke Valley Gun Show at the Berglund Center. Council ultimately voted for a different version, which removed that exception.

During his remarks, Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea said the ban fulfills a promise he made to the city after the Virginia Beach mass shooting.

“We’re going to have the ability to make change. We’re going to have the ability to make people feel safe in this building,” he said.

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