The gunfire that erupted with Reid's indiscretion has rekindled the flap among lobbyists and legislators about guns in public places. Guns are allowed in all buildings in the State Capitol complex. But last year new restrictions were put in place preventing the public display of guns at the Capitol, essentially limiting gun-toters to those with concealed weapons permits.
According to the National Conference of State Legislators, 18 statehouses have metal detectors and many of them allow guns. So Virginia is hardly alone. Still, the General Assembly in session is considering 15 amendments to its concealed weapons laws and 10 new or amended measures relating to firearms.
Delegate Algie T. Howell, D-Norfolk, says his concealed weapons permit, which he's had for about 20 years, offers a kind of peace of mind. "I always renew it," Howell says, adding that he doesn't pack heat at the Capitol. A business owner, Howell says he keeps a gun for protection. He recalls one time he was alerted to a broken window at his business, so he grabbed his pistol and went to check it out. But he's never drawn the gun, he says: "I don't shoot that great so I don't know if it'd help me or not."
A former Virginia state trooper and firearms instructor, Delegate Charles W. "Bill" Carrico Sr., R-Galax, says the state's laws pertaining to a person's right to carry guns is "fine as is."
Carrico, who carries, isn't listed in the State Police database. Instead, he says he's entitled under a separate section of federal law to carry a concealed weapon as a former law-enforcement officer with more than 15 years experience. Carrico declines to say how often he carries any of his three SigSauer semiautomatics: a 9 mm, a .357-caliber and a .380-caliber. "I don't want anyone challenging me on the street and others looking to me for protection," he says.
Carrico prefers to carry his weapon concealed, he says, because it's a matter of "out of sight, out of mind." Until the incident with Reid, Carrico says few people knew he packed, not even his seatmate in the General Assembly, Delegate Dwight Clinton Jones, D-Richmond.
As of July, 12 of the 100 House of Delegates members had a permit to carry a concealed weapon; one of 40 senators did Sen. Frederick M. Quayle, R-Chesapeake. Click here
to see the legislative seating chart in pdf