Brewer bill allowing concealed gun carry in Capitol Square passes House

Published 5:25 pm Friday, February 3, 2023

A bill sponsored by Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, that would allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring firearms into Richmond’s Capitol Square and surrounding state government buildings passed the House of Delegates in a 54-45 vote on Feb. 2.

The vote passed largely on party lines, with two Democrats – Dels. Betsy Carr of Richmond and Kelly Convirs-Fowler of Virginia Beach – breaking ranks to side with Republicans.

Brewer had announced the legislation, filed as House Bill 1407, in December.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“This bill would allow anyone with any active concealed carry permit to exercise their 2nd Amendment Rights within Capitol Square and surrounding Commonwealth-owned buildings,” she stated in a Feb. 2 press release. “This is one of the first steps in reversing the Democrats’ failed policies. We must protect our 2nd Amendment and allow citizens and employees that traverse the area year-round to protect themselves, especially in and around our State Capitol.”

In 2021, the Virginia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1381, which made it a Class 1 misdemeanor to carry “any firearm” or “explosive material” within the Virginia Capitol, Capitol Square and the surrounding area, any building “owned or leased by the Commonwealth or any agency thereof,” or any office where “employees of the Commonwealth or any agency thereof are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties.” The bill exempted law enforcement, authorized security personnel, active-duty military, fire marshals with police powers and any member of a college cadet corps participating in an official ceremonial event.

The Capitol Square concealed-carry ban had passed the Senate 21-18, with unanimous support among Democrats and unanimous opposition from Republicans. The bill then passed the House, also along party lines, with only former Del. Roslyn Tyler, D-Sussex, breaking ranks to side with Republicans.  

The bill was one of several gun-related laws enacted over the past two years. In the November 2019 elections, following a mass shooting in Virginia Beach’s municipal center earlier that year, Democrats proposing new gun laws gained a majority in the House and Senate, and were able to pass a series of gun-control measures. The laws included reinstating Virginia’s one-handgun-purchase-a-month restriction, requiring background checks on all gun sales, increasing the penalty for leaving firearms in the presence of children, a “red flag” law that permits courts to issue an “emergency substantial risk order” allowing law enforcement to temporarily seize firearms from someone deemed to pose a “substantial risk of injury to himself or others,” and a law allowing localities to ban guns in government buildings, parks and at public events.

In the 2021 elections, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin defeated his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and Republicans retook a 52-48 majority in the House. 

Brewer’s bill must still be voted upon by the Senate, where Democrats still hold a 21-19 majority.