ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - The discussion regarding guns in public places is at the forefront in Roanoke. City leaders are considering whether to join other Virginia localities which prohibit certain types of loaded firearms in public.
The idea has drawn criticism from some groups.
Inside this week's city council meeting, Daniel Highberger had a gun on his hip and a high-capacity pistol magazine in his hand. It was part of his response to city leaders efforts to ban open carry on certain guns in public places.
"I feel it is a infringement on our second-amendment right to keep and bear arms and the fact of the matter is that criminals don't obey laws" said Daniel Highberger, a gun rights advocate.
Roanoke City Mayor Sherman Lea said the proposed plan is about public safety.
"We are not infringing on anyone's 2nd amendment right, I want to be clear on that" said Lea. "It's not taking anyone's weapon away for them. It is saying coming into a building, a government building, Why do you have to have an assault rifle? Why does an incident have to occur before you take action?"
The idea is to prohibit loaded weapons, including semi-automatic guns that hold 20 rounds or more. Currently a handful of Virginia localities have the ban including Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Richmond and several counties in Northern Virginia. Soon Roanoke could join that list.
Roanoke City Police Chief Tim Jones said he first approached city leaders about considering the ban after a group of residents expressed safety concerns .
"I'm trying to weigh and balance the perspective on both sides," said Jones. "The second amendment is part of the Constitution. I support the second amendment. I also support the fourth amendment. As the police chief we are the guardians of that Constitution."
While supporters said the ban would make the city safer, others said the proposal targets certain gun owners.
"Not to mention the law says it doesn't effect concealed carry permit holders," said Daniel Highberger. "So I can go out tomorrow and get a permit and still carry an AR-15 with a 30-round magazine. It's a feel-good measure that is not affecting anyone but the law abiding citizens.'
"I am steadfast on my position" said Mayor Lea. "What I want to do as Mayor is do what I think is right for the city."
As early as October, the city could vote on whether to ask state lawmakers to add Roanoke to the list of Virginia localities with the ban in place.
Ultimately, it would be up to the General Assembly to decide whether Roanoke could enforce the ban.
For more information about the ban being proposed in Roanoke: http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/18.2-287.4/