Town That Should Know Better Embraces Gun Free-Zones

Town That Should Know Better Embraces Gun Free-Zones
AP Photo/Gerry Broome

Beginning today, guns are banned in all public buildings in Blacksburg, Virginia; including city hall and the public library. In addition, all town meetings and other permitted events and festivals in the college town will now be gun-free zones, at least in theory.

The local gun ban ordinance was approved by the city council of the college town just a few weeks ago, and local officials claim the new law will make the city a a safer place.

“Since I was first elected to council years ago, I’ve heard from citizens that an ordinance that makes Blacksburg safer, makes it more family-friendly and creates a better sense of community in the town,” Vice Mayor Michael Sutphin said. “My hope is the ordinance will make people who were avoiding Steppin’ Out or not wanting to go to Steppin’ Out because they were worried about some of the displays of firearms that they had seen, make them understand that it is a family-friendly place, that it is a place.”

Steppin’ Out is Blacksburg’s annual street festival, yet another one of the new gun-free zones established by the city’s ordinance.

If there’s any community in the state of Virginia that should know the limitations of gun-free zones, it’s Blacksburg. The city is home to Virginia Tech, where back in 2007 a mass murderer ignored the prohibition on bringing guns to campus and killed 32 people and injured 17 more in a gun-free zone.

It boggles my mind to see Blacksburg’s vice-mayor proclaim that the city’s new gun-free zone ordinance is going to make anyone any safer, since he must be well aware of the fact that violent individuals will simply ignore the misdemeanor ordinance just like they’ll ignore the felony prohibition on taking an innocent human life.

Under the ordinance taking effect today, violators of any gun-free zone will be asked to leave and disarm themselves. If they refuse to do so, they could face up to a year behind bars and several thousand dollars in fines.

Who, exactly, do city council members believe will be thwarted by this new ordinance? Do they truly expect that individuals with evil intent are going to see a sign prohibiting firearms and willingly turn around? Do they think that someone carrying a gun with the intention of violence will walk away and disarm themselves if told to do so?

I find that impossible to believe. Instead, I suspect that the city council members who unanimously approved the ordinance were more interested in sending a message than delivering real security.

Blacksburg Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith said it’s something citizens have been asking for since that happened.

“It’s not surprising that many (other localities) have wished to go forward, this is something that our citizens have been asking us for, well, since 2007 candidly,” Hager-Smith said. “That’s when we began to receive visitors who were here purely for political drama, political theatrics.”

A move like this is likely to lead to more political drama, not less. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some type of protest coinciding with the Steppin’ Out festival, and there may even be litigation filed over the new ordinance now that it’s taken effect.

I’m not immune to the emotional argument behind Blacksburg’s new carry ban, but ultimately it’s a measure designed to offer people a false sense of security at the expense of their actual personal safety. A gun-free zone is no impediment to those with evil in their hearts, as the good people of Blacksburg are well aware, and the ordinance banning the legal carrying of firearms in many public places will only have an impact on those gun owners who want to remain on the right side of the law. It’s truly a shame that in a town centered around an institution of higher learning, the emotional appeal of the gun-free zone has trumped the critical thinking that reveals the vacuous nature of the new law that will be enforced starting today.


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