By Rebecca Leber on
January 24, 2014 at 10:24 am
CREDIT: Virginia Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
What is the bigger risk inside a state capitol building: openly
carrying an American flag or an assault rifle? In Virginia, visitors to
the state legislature cannot bring American flags and signs affixed to
sticks, because capitol security considers sticks a public threat.
Firearms, however, are allowed.
A group of gun violence prevention activists discovered this when
they arrived on Monday to attend a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event.
According to Virginia Capitol Police, the groups were informed
beforehand of the restriction barring sticks at permitted rallies,
because they can be used as weapons. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in
America’s Gena Reeder said they were aware of the rules, but “certainly
not in our wildest imagination thought that could apply to the American
While the moms tore out the dowels of their flags, capitol grounds
visitors with firearms were ushered through the entrance. That day,
Virginia Citizens Defense League and other gun rights groups organized a
“Guns Save Lives” day. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that about
half of the crowd was armed, packing weapons that ranged from handguns to assault rifles.
The anti-gun violence activists couldn’t reconcile this conflicting
message in their heads, Reeder explained. “We are sending a message that
you cannot hand carry an American flag into a state capitol, but you
can bring a loaded weapon,” Reeder told ThinkProgress. “Are guns
becoming more patriotic than an American flag?
Meanwhile, others walked by like this:
A man carries an imitation rifle.
CREDIT: Virginia Chapter Moms Demand Action
The same weekend, gun violence prevention activists faced a similar
situation in the Washington state capitol. Moms Demand Action’s
Washington Chapter Leader Kate Beck said the group arrived to lobby the
capitol for gun violence action, only to find out all signs with sticks
could not be carried inside. However, Washington state allows firearms on its capitol campus.
Virginia is not the only state that allows guns in its legislative
buildings. Texas faced an awkward situation last year when police confiscated tampons
from the gallery in the midst of a debate on abortion restrictions,
while allowing others to walk in with firearms. In Kentucky, another
state with open carry inside public buildings, a lawmaker accidentally fired a handgun
in her capitol office. Kentucky state Rep. Leslie Combs (D) shrugged
off the incident. “I’m a gun owner,” she said. “It happens.”