RICHMOND – This afternoon, the Virginia Senate approved a bill introduced by Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Harrisonburg), HB 2077, which would permit those seeking emergency shelter voluntarily to bring their firearms with them. The bill passed on a 21-19, party line vote.
Said Senator Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William), “When we are dealing with emergency situations as a Commonwealth or as a local government we are operating with very limited resources. This is why we rely heavily on a number of both private and non-profit partners to maintain public safety. Shelter sites are selected based on structural soundness, on proximity to generators, and so forth. Sometimes that places a shelter on private property, sometimes in a school. This is not a right to carry issue. It's a right to have emergency preparedness to keep our communities safe.”
Said Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton),“Emergency shelters are high-stress, low-privacy environments, which heightens the potential for conflict. Confrontations with armed citizens may arise when food, water, and medical services are rationed out. Added security would be needed at shelters, which takes needed public safety personnel away from the present disaster.”
Said Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington), “This is an authority state governments don’t need to have. I would just say the Virginia Association of Police believes this would be an unfunded mandate for local governments because more police will be needed in shelters to offer that additional layer of protection if people are in the shelters with firearms. People in our shelters are in a very vulnerable state and they should not be challenged by people walking around with firearms.”
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