BLACKSBURG, Va. – Blacksburg Town Council unanimously approved a gun ban on town-owned property, including town hall, public parks, and rec centers Tuesday night.
The restriction also extends to town-permitted events on public property, like the annual Steppin Out.
The town is one of the first in our area to make the move, following a change to state law last year giving localities the right to do so. Many local governments asked the General Assembly for years for the change before it finally passed.
But in Blacksburg, things are different. The memory of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech still casts a haunting shadow more than a decade later.
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.”
Community members were allowed to give feedback to town leaders at Tuesday night’s council meeting which started at 6:30 p.m. About a dozen people showed up.
Cole Harden of Blacksburg was one of a few who spoke against the ban.
“I’m stunned that my local leaders are going on the attack; this proposition offers no tangible benefit whatsoever to the town or its residents,” Harden said.
Council members remarked they received the largest amount of emailed commentary, possibly ever, on the topic. Although they added the “super majority” of emails received against the ban were from those out of town.
A few other locals spoke in favor of the move, including Steve Gillespie.
“I just wanted to express my appreciation for the courage of our Blacksburg Town Council for taking this on after so long,” Gillespie said.
The town was prepared for an overflow crowd with extra socially-distanced seating available. It was also prepared for any possible confrontation, with about a dozen police officers, including Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson, standing by in chambers and in the hallway.
But neither were needed, and Hager-Smith said that’s a proud moment.
“Everyone who came was civil, was full of good intention, agreed to disagree and we had no fireworks,” Hager-Smith said.
The ban takes effect March 1. Town staff will be putting new signs up to make the new law enforceable.
The City of Roanoke is proposing a similar ban.