In May 2004, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law erasing any local ordinances prohibiting the carrying of guns, concealed or in the open, in public places, including City Council chambers, recreation centers and polling places.
There are laws against distributing literature too close to the door of your polling place. And that there are laws against bringing alcohol into a polling place. There are laws against smoking in polling places. There are laws against carrying a concealed weapon into a place that serves alcohol for on-premises consumption? There are laws which prohibit exhibiting campaign material [such as a political button supporting a particular candidate], so as not to influence any person from casting their vote. But there are no laws with respect to carrying concealed or unconcealed weapons into polling places in the state of Virginia.
Well, not all polling places. Virginia does have some restrictions with regard to bringing weapons onto school property and into a place of worship. And, Universities and colleges typically have policies about bringing weapons onto campus. But these are exceptions.
It used to be that guns, both unconcealed and concealed (with a permit), were allowed into the Virginia State Capitol, where in at least one case, mutual shots were fired. And, in October 2002, the Virginia House of Delegates defeated a proposal "to ban all guns except police weapons in the state Capitol and General Assembly office building in Richmond."
However, last March, a "joint committee of delegates and senators passed a rule requiring [individuals] to hold a concealed gun permit to bring in a firearm, even if they plan to carry it openly," leading a member of the Virginia Citizens Defense League to whether this might lead the Virginia General Assembly to allow localities to impose new restrictions on packing heat and to complain, "It's do as we say, not do as we do."
"Members of the same group caused a stir in Northern Virginia last year, when police were called out several times after members wore their guns openly to restaurants, including Starbucks and Champs. Carrying a gun openly is legal in Virginia, however, and each instance was resolved in their favor."
With this in mind, I thought it might be interesting to engage Joan Schatzman in a piece of performance art, to learn how folks might respond to an open shotgun carried into a local polling place.
Back in November 2001, a resident new to Virginia was surprised in Nelson County to witness a gun at the polls. At Charlottesville Recreation Center (a former Armory Building), folks hardly batted an eye.
For more about gun laws in Virginia and how they might effect you, see Index to Coverage of Gun Issues on the Loper web site.
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