The Virginian

[Ed: DRGO’s Virginia activist, Dennis Petrocelli, MD, just won’t quit. As all of us must, he is keeping the pressure on Virginia governments that seek to restrict our individual liberties and 2A rights. These were his comments at Tuesday’s public meeting about the Richmond, Virginia ordinance to prohibit firearms anywhere “used by, or . . . adjacent to” a public event (e.g., a demonstration) [my emphases — how near is “adjacent” and who knows when an event “should be permitted” if it wasn’t ?].

President of the City Council, Councilors, and other guests,

My name is Dr. Dennis Petrocelli. I’m a forensic psychiatrist who has studied human violence and aggression for the past 20 years that I’ve worked here in Virginia.  I’m asking all councilors to vote in opposition to 2020-184 and I’m happy to quickly go through a few reasons why I’m asking you to do that.

First let me clarify I speak for myself and one particular organization; I do not speak for my employer. I am a member of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a national organization of healthcare providers that debunks mythology about gun control that has masqueraded as public health.

Let me turn my attention now to 2020-184.  Mayor Stoney has proposed this as a gun ban, and his stated intention is that by passing this members of the community would feel more secure in public places where there are gatherings that either should or are permitted. This legislation would do none of that and let me cite some reasons for this.

It is well established that criminals do not fear law enforcement–what it is that they fear are potentially armed victims.  This has been established by surveys that have been conducted of persons who are incarcerated for violent crimes.  With regard to those of us who are law abiding, it has been repeatedly established that the enforcement of law does not make us feel more secure.  Fear of crime is only reduced by the presence of security, and it’s important to emphasize that this so-called ban does not provide perimeter security or any measure of security at any event. 

Additionally we know that lawful defensive gun usages vastly outweighs criminal uses of guns by at least a hundred to one.  There are roughly 500,000 defensive gun uses annually in the United States.  It’s also known by FBI data collected in 2018 that armed civilians have often stopped active shooters before law enforcement can arrive.  We know that armed civilians who are lawfully armed and properly trained are vital immediate responders who respond prior to the arrival of law enforcement.

Finally, I really need to emphasize that all of your constituents are buying guns in absolutely record numbers.  Local gun stores have been picked clean of their inventory and all of those folks are your constituents.  I cannot imagine what it will be like for you to go to your constituents who have recently bought guns and explained to them that they’re going to have to keep their guns in a safe and cannot  carry them in order to keep themselves safe.  Thank you.

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Good Evening Members of Richmond City Council and my fellow Richmonders,

I’m Dr. Dennis Petrocelli.  I’m a constituent of Ms. Larson and I appreciate your allowing me to address you yet again on this ordinance.  Again, I’m asking you to oppose it. I want to add two points to those I made at my previous opportunity to speak, and some of these are in reference to Mayor Stoney’s comments about the purpose of this ordinance.

I’ll remind you that on the last Virginia Citizens Defense League Lobby Day, January 20th, 2020, roughly 20,000 people showed up to the capital armed, and we left the capital cleaner and neater than we found it.  None of us committed any offenses whatsoever.  There’s no basis in fact for this ordinance supposedly making anyone safer.

The second point I’d like to make is about gun control in general. There isn’t a single piece of gun control legislation in the United States that hasn’t been used toward racist ends.  I’m an ex-New Yorker and I can tell you that the New York SAFE ACT is nearly exclusively enforced in Brooklyn and the Bronx. It is not enforced in Westchester, it is not enforced in other counties, and that’s entirely due to demographics. I strongly encourage the city council to think about this and to vote no on this ordinance. I thank you very much for your time.

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Dear Chief of Police Smith,

Your comments tonight regarding Mayor Stoney’s proposed ordinance to “ban” guns at and near events that are or should be permitted in Richmond were a shocking affront to the Second Amendment community.  At a time when your position, your department, and your brothers and sisters throughout the country are attacked and scrutinized, you chose to stand with the lawless and infringe upon the rights of your law abiding supporters.

This “ban” provides no perimeter security, or any other measure to ensure security.  It merely tells responsible citizens that their guns are not welcome, despite the fact that concealed handgun permit holders are among the safest and most law-abiding members of society.  It simultaneously informs criminals that participants are unarmed. 

You stated that this “ban” was “not an infringement.”  It absolutely, unequivocally is.  I have a God-given right to bear arms to protect myself and others, and this ordinance prohibits that.  The fact that you cannot see this ordinance as an infringement makes it all the more frightening:  it is now reasonable to believe that there’s no limit to what your police force is capable of.   You will enforce one infringement after the next, eventually losing sight of the Second Amendment altogether.  Perhaps you already have.

You stated that your police force would seek “compliance” before implementing “enforcement.”   Let’s examine what “seeking compliance” would look like.  Police officers, armed with guns would approach citizens armed with guns, and demand that those citizens secure those guns at some unspecified distance from the event, absent any evidence that those citizens had any intention other than to be ready to defend themselves.  If there is anything the Second Amendment was designed to prevent, it is exactly this scenario. 

In response to my observation that gun control laws have been enforced disproportionately against minorities, you stated that under your leadership it would be enforced fairly.  You are our third Chief of Police since the rioting began roughly three months ago; there is little reason to believe that your tenure will endure the duration of this ordinance. 

Assurances about enforcement were made before the Supreme Court in the New York Rifle & Pistol Association v New York City case, and several Justices were appropriately troubled that such assurances were meaningless, but that’s all you offer us tonight.  Recall that your officers tear gassed protesters before the curfew took place.  If your officers literally do not know what time it is, how can we expect them to follow the nuances of enforcement you contemplate?

Events of the past several months prove that immediate responders, that is, lawfully armed citizens, are all the more important when police are diverted by the mayhem of rioters.  I’d like to think that the Richmond police exist to uphold the law in the support of the rights of the law-abiding.  Instead, you make it clear that you’d happily allow your department to serve as the leading edge of infringement against our rights.

It is deeply troubling that your allegiance to politics is greater than your allegiance to the law.  The context of this ordinance is crucial to understand it.  This year’s Virginia Citizens Defense League Lobby Day brought 20,000 open-carrying law-abiding citizens to Richmond.  No crimes were committed, and we left the Capitol grounds literally cleaner than we found it.  This has been the case for many years now, yet you choose to ignore all of this.  Therefore, I can only conclude that you are helping the Mayor do our Governor a favor,  in return for his recent campaign endorsement.  This year the Governor declared the Capitol Grounds an “emergency shelter” and banned guns inside that perimeter.  He knows that maneuver won’t stand on appeal, so the Mayor is delivering this ordinance for him.  It is as transparent as it is unconstitutional.

Dennis Petrocelli, MD



–Dr. Dennis Petrocelli is a clinical and forensic psychiatrist who has practiced for nearly 20 years in Virginia. He took up shooting in 2019 for mind-body training and self-defense, and is in the fight for Virginians’ gun rights.

All DRGO articles by Dennis Petrocelli, MD