The move by Portsmouth Councilman Nathan Clark came as the council was to consider making the city a “Second Amendment Constitutional City” – placing it in symbolic opposition to gun-control efforts underway in the newly Democrat-controlled state Assembly.
The proposal, debated before a capacity audience in the council chambers, passed 4-3, according to the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk.
Clark’s gesture also came as the state prepares for a controversial gun-rights rally scheduled for Monday in Richmond, the state capital.
But he apparently angered at least two members of the council in Portsmouth, an Atlantic coast city about 97 miles from Richmond.
The council critics said Clark should have told them in advance that he planned to bring the weapon – and one of them asked Clark to apologize for not doing so.
“It was a disgrace, disheartening and an embarrassment,” Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke wrote to the council Thursday, according to the newspaper. “Most of us were blindsided by the display.” Lucas-Burke was among three council members who voted against the “Constitutional City” designation. The others were Councilman Shannon Glover and Mayor John Rowe. Glover had complained of being blindsided by Clark's gesture, the report said.
Another critic was Fred Guttenberg, father of one of the victims of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting in February 2018, who accused Clark of “open intimidation” and called on him to resign.
Clark told Norfolk’s WTKR-TV that he was looking to make a point about gun rights.
“I had a lot of people come and talk to me after it,” Clark told the station. “No one appeared intimidated. There [were] police officers that were there. They were aware that I had it.”
Others on the council were supportive of Clark’s stand.
“I do not believe that Council(man) Clark needs to apologize for exercising his right as a law enforcement officer to carry his weapon to a public meeting,” Councilman Bill Moody wrote, according to the Virginian-Pilot. “I can appreciate liberals’ knee jerk reactions but if they have a problem with the law they should use the system they now control to change it.”
Clark himself did not respond to the newspaper’s request for a comment. But the paper reported that Clark had issued a press release announcing his plan to bring the weapon to the meeting.
Meanwhile, Virginia’s gun owners received some support from President Trump on Friday. The president claimed in a Twitter message that the Second Amendment was “under very serious attack” in the commonwealth.
“That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats,” Trump wrote, “they will take your guns away.”
Earlier this week, Virginia’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, declared a state of emergency and said he was temporarily banning individuals from carrying firearms and other weapons on Capitol grounds ahead of the rally for fear of a repeat of the violence law enforcement was ill-prepared to deal with at another rally in Charlottesville more than two years ago.
Pro-gun activists have challenged that order.
“The only anti-gun ppl you’ll see in Virginia on the 20th will be the government and they’ll have guns,” one Twitter user observed. “Think about that for a second.”
But a Richmond Circuit Court judge upheld Northam’s order, denying a lawsuit brought forth by the Virginia Citizens Defense League as well as Gunowners of America seeking an injunction against the Democratic governor's ban.
Fox News’ Alex Pappas contributed to this story.