Not so long ago, all of the public buildings on Capitol Square were open to the public. Anyone could come and go as they pleased, without showing an ID or emptying their pockets. After 9/11, public access was drastically restricted. Citizens now need an appointment to enter most state office buildings other than the Capitol Building.
To enter the Capitol Building and the Pocahontas Building, members of the public must pass through metal detectors. The screening line can be long at certain times. If you have an appointment or are planning on attending a hearing, it's a good idea to arrive plenty early to give yourself time to clear security.
Under House and Senate rules, the following items are prohibited:
Any device that may disrupt the conduct of business, including but not limited to voice-amplification equipment; bullhorns; blow horns; sirens, or other noise-producing devices; as well as signs on sticks, poles or stakes; or helium-filled balloons.
Despite the metal detectors, firearms are permitted. Members of the public with a valid permit may carry a concealed weapon and anyone is free to open carry a rifle or pistol into the Capitol and Pocahontas Building. Those who wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights should be prepared to present a valid state photo ID and/or a concealed weapons permit. Note: The Virginia Senate prohibits firearms of any type in its public gallery.
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