More than 50 persons wearing bright orange stickers reading “Guns Save Lives,” some also visibly carrying handguns, packed the chambers of the Falls Church City Council Monday night to protest Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner’s membership in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns association founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
While none of the protesters stated they were residents of the City of Falls Church, but visiting from Loudoun County and other outlying jurisdictions, a dozen other citizens, most Falls Church City residents representing the “Protest Easy Guns” group, countered the protest by speaking out in favor of the mayor’s decision.
Those opposing the Mayors Against Illegal Guns were led by Philip Van Cleve, president of the 5,000-member Virginia Citizens Defense League from Newington, Virginia. He accused the Mayors group of a “hidden agenda of propagating law suits and propaganda against the gun industry.”
Only one of the “Guns Save Lives” speakers said he lives contiguous to Falls Church, on Pinewood Street, but not a resident of the City. All who shared his view focused on their opposition to Bloomberg, including his initiative to come to Virginia to push for tougher laws to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
Those supporting Mayor Gardner’s decision to align with the Mayors group were led by Hannah Jordan, a 15-year City resident who said, “More than two years ago, 32 members of the Falls Church community, myself included, participated in a lie-in organized by Protest Easy Guns in front of our community center…in solidarity with the victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre.”
She noted 450 mayors across the U.S. “support sensible gun laws” that “have one goal in common: reducing criminal access to guns.” She stated that the objective of the coalition is “to reduce criminal access to guns, not to take guns out of the hands of lawful citizens.”
She said that important measures “include closing the gun show loophole so that people will no longer be able to purchase guns at gun shows or through private sellers without a background check,” “federal efforts to trace guns used in crimes,” and “enacting laws against ‘straw purchases’ which are sales where an individual may purchase stockpiles of guns in a state with limited restrictions, such as Virginia, and resell them elsewhere.”
Numerous of the pro-gun protesters stressed that there was no link between gun purchase loopholes and the Virginia Tech massacre, noting that the perpetrator in that case obtained his guns legally by other means.
While not present at the meeting, Mayor Gardner wrote on the News-Press web site Tuesday that she watched the meeting on her computer, as it was broadcast through the City of Falls Church web site. She said, “Although there were speakers from Falls Church, they were not from the City of Falls Church (I make the distinction because the City Council represents the interests of the City residents). I may have missed an address or two, but most of the speakers who voiced an opinion against my membership in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns were from outside the City limits.”
She added, “Valid points were made on both sides of the issue, but it does not change my belief that there are loopholes in our current legislation that need to be tightened. I also want to say that I am not against individuals owning guns, but I do believe that there should be some regulations regarding the purchasing and ownership of guns. I also do not put guns in the same category as tire irons or baseball bats.”