Roanokers protest in Richmond, disgusted with special gun session outcome

Mayor Sherman Lea rode the bus with those previously critical of him

By Shayne Dwyer - Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - Dozens of people from our area were in Richmond on Tuesday afternoon when the bombshell dropped that after just two hours, the General Assembly was adjourned, making no headway on gun legislation.

They left early Tuesday morning on a bus from Roanoke to demonstrate for gun control and Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea went with them. Despite spending six hours on a bus just to turn around with nothing, they felt the trip was worth it.

The group wanted to support local Democratic lawmakers and try to pressure Republican ones to see it their way, and they say the fight is far from over.

Virginia's 2019 special session on guns following the rampage in Virginia Beach ends with nothing and Roanokers who made the trip spent more time on the bus getting there than lawmakers did at their desks.

"I was disappointed with the shenanigans and I say that word strongly, shenanigans today to not deal with this opportunity that the governor has given us," Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea said.

Lea was one of the dozens from Roanoke and hundreds overall protesting in Captiol Square on Tuesday, supporting Democrats and pressuring Republicans to change. 

"It's a movement to reform and change our gun laws, it's not just thoughts and prayers, it's about policy and change," local political activist Geoffrey Preudhomme said.

Senate Majority Leader Republican Thomas Norment proposed a bill that would ban guns from government buildings before reversing course after outrage from other republicans. That bill was exactly what Mayor Lea is advocating for.

"The things that the Republicans are doing are wrong, I think that they are jeopardizing the lives of citizens that work in these buildings; we can do better," Lea said.

Roanoke Indivisible hosted the bus trip and was happy to have the mayor along, despite being critical of him in the past. Together they're disgusted with what they saw in Richmond.

"If you can't do your job, and take a vote because you're afraid because half your people will be mad at you if you vote one way and half your people will be mad at you if you vote the other way, I'm sorry we don't employ you, we don't send you to these places to run away like a 'fraidy cat,'" bus trip co-organizer Catherine Koebel said.

Lea said the city will again have Sen. John Edwards sponsor a bill this upcoming session to allow Roanoke and other places to ban firearms in their government buildings and he said they won't stop proposing it year after year until they get change.

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