Will Virginia Beach’s City Council Members “See the Light”?

Jun. 28, 2019
Bob Adelmann

It's unclear who said it first: Everett Dirksen, Barry Goldwater, or Ronald Reagan. What's clear is that the members of Virginia Beach's city council are about to hear it again: when politicians feel the heat, they see the light.

It's coming in the form of a petition urging – nay, demanding – that they repeal the "gun free zone" law that cost the lives of 12 city workers last month.

And it's coming from a city employee who lucked out. Vincent Smith was absent from his workplace in the city's Municipal Center on May 31 when the shooter entered the building where he worked, and killed 12 of his co-workers before the police could stop the rampage.

Three years ago, Smith, a city engineer, saw a gap in the security measures protecting city employees: "The gap was not allowing employees to carry a firearm … instead, people were forced – like I am every day – to choose between earning a living and saving my life."

So he created a petition demanding that the city council reverse its "gun-free zone" policies. He got 260 signers, and it went nowhere.

On Tuesday he tried again. He refreshed the petition on Change.org:

We the people of the United States have the right to bear arms to protect our liberties, freedoms, and our very lives. This right is protected by the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution. Unfortunately, employees of The City of Virginia Beach (herein after The City) are not afforded these rights while engaged in such employment, despite no restrictions on the general public possessing weapons while present in City buildings, properties or work sites nor while interacting with City employees.

In the wake of recent tragic events [i.e., the May 31 shooting at the city's Municipal Center that took 12 lives], it has become abundantly apparent that this employee weapons possession ban must end….

We, the undersigned, call on the Virginia Beach City Council, City Manager and Mayor to amend The City's employee weapons ban (City HR Policy 6.18) and give personnel who are properly licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia to carry a concealed handgun the ability to do so to protect their lives.

While this article was being crafted, the number of signers increased by 150, to 3,179. Smith's initial goal was 2,500 signers. He has raised it to 5,000. (See Sources below to sign it.)

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Said Smith: "I want a real consideration by council and a real discussion about changing the HR policy. The city has to [have] something that doesn't forbid employees [from possessing] weapons … something that includes an allowance for them to take personal responsibility for their own safety." He added: "What happened [on May 31] could have been minimized."

John Lott agrees. In a Fox News op-ed last week Lott, the founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, wrote: "This attack could have ended with much less bloodshed … however, the city bans individuals, including public employees, from possessing 'any weapon' on city property."

In fact, if his recent study of school shootings since 2000 can be applied to municipal office buildings as well, there wouldn't have been any bloodshed at all. In that study, Lott examined every school shooting from 2000 through 2018 and discovered that not a single school "that allows teachers to carry has experienced a death or injury from a shooting."

This coincides with his broader studies in which he discovered that 98 percent of all public shootings in the U.S. since 1950 have occurred in places where the average citizen was banned from possessing a firearm.

That's why Lott is pushing for passage of Rep. Thomas Massie's Safe Students Act, which would repeal the unlamented Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 signed into law by then-President George H. W. Bush. He explained that repeal "would make it easier for state and local governments to unambiguously set their own firearm policies by eliminating the 'one-size-fits-all' federal ban on guns in school zones."

The Virginia Beach city council will shortly have the opportunity to reverse its ban. If it does, the council would, at a single stroke, turn the city's most dangerous places to work into the safest places to work.

When politicians, according to Dirksen, Reagan, Goldwater, et al, "feel the heat, they see the light." Virginia Beach's city council members are about to feel the heat, thanks to the petition posted by city employee Vincent Smith, which continues to gain momentum.

Whether they see the light is another question entirely.


An Ivy League graduate and former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at bobadelmann@msn.com.


Who first used the phrase: "Politicians see the light when they feel the heat"?

DailySignal.comVirginia Beach Employee Works to Abolish City's Gun-Free Zone Policy

The petition: Allow Employees of Virginia Beach to Defend their Lives During Workplace Violence

WTKR.com: Building 2 employee hopes petition will allow employees to be armed at municipal center

The New York Times: 12 Killed in Rampage at Municipal Center in Virginia

Fox News: Rep. Thomas Massie, John Lott: Gun-free zones need to go. They are not only ineffective, they're dangerous

Background on Virginia Beach shooting

Background on the 1990 Gun-Free School Zones Act

Safe Students Act

Background on John Lott

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