A Portsmouth, Virginia lawmaker created a stir last week when he showed up to a city council meeting on gun rights carrying a loaded AR-15 style rifle.
Councilman Nathan Clark walked into the Portsmouth City Hall meeting on Tuesday night with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 hanging from a strap, CBS affiliate WTKR reported.
Portsmouth became on Tuesday one of the latest Virginia cities to declare themselves a “Second Amendment sanctuary” in protest of proposed gun control measures put forth by the state’s Democrats.
The city voted 4-3 to pass a resolution that would make it a Second Amendment “constitutional” city.
Clark, a law enforcement officer, told WTKR that he carried the rifle into the meeting to make a statement about the right of citizens to bear arms.
He also said the gun was loaded, and he made clear during the meeting that he is trained to handle firearms.
Clark addressed the AR-15 in the room during the meeting, acknowledging in a prepared statement that the rifle is one of the most “controversial” in the gun debate.
“To some, this weapon looks and appears to be scary and intimidating, and some believe it to be downright dangerous. I can assure you, as long as this gun is strapped to my chest, it will not harm you,” he said. “It will not be aimed or brandished, and the trigger will not be pulled. It will not shoot itself.”
According to Clark, he got his point across.
“I had a lot of people come and talk to me after it,” he told WTKR. “No one appeared intimidated. The police officers that were there, they were aware that I had it.”
But some local residents, including community activist Barry Randall, were outraged by the display.
“You wouldn’t walk into 7-Eleven with an assault weapon. He wouldn’t walk into the library with an assault weapon, so why would you walk into the council chambers?” Randall told WTKR.
Randall said he was “disgusted” by Clark’s actions and said he wouldn’t feel “comfortable” talking to an elected official knowing they had an “assault weapon.”
Some of Clark’s fellow city council members agreed.
Two of his peers criticized him for carrying the weapon into the public meeting and one asked Clark to apologize, the Virginian-Pilot reported.
“It was a disgrace, disheartening and an embarrassment,” Vice Mayor Lucas-Burke said in an email to the council on Thursday. “Most of us were blindsided by the display.”
Lucas-Burke asked Clark for an apology, according to the Virginian-Pilot.
Commenters on social media voiced similar concerns.
“Our community, especially people of color, we are concerned. We are concerned that he took this opportunity to grandstand on an issue that just happened last year that killed innocent lives [at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center],” said one commenter.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime Guttenberg lost her life in the Parkland shooting, called on Clark to resign.
Virginia is for (gun) lovers?
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has vowed to push through new gun control laws. He is backing a package of eight bills, including universal background checks, a “red flag” law, a ban on assault rifles and a limit of one handgun-a-month purchase.
The state’s gun owners responded with a movement to create “sanctuary cities” for gun rights, with local government bodies passing declarations not to enforce new gun laws.
On Monday, thousands assembled at Virginia’s capitol building to demonstrate for gun rights.
Monday’s rally was organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a prominent Second Amendment group that typically holds an annual “Lobby Day” to meet with lawmakers. The group has said this year’s event will be focused on opposing sweeping gun control measures that could be enacted next week by the Virginia legislature, which is under Democratic control for the first time in a generation.
Since the November election, nearly all of Virginia’s 95 counties have some form of “sanctuary,” a term first used by localities opposed to harsh treatment of illegal immigrants.
The idea has quickly spread across the United States, with over 200 local governments in 16 states passing such measures.