A new state law, greatly weakening Virginia’s firearms preemption statute, takes effect July 1. And some cities in Virginia are already preparing to expand so-called “gun-free zones” that they have been prohibited from making until now.
Virginia Cities Create Gun-Free Zones
Gov. Ralph Northam signed HB 421 earlier this year. It grants local authorities the power to prohibit “firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof” in a wide variety of locations. State preemption law previously protected these locations.
Virginia Gun-Free Locations
- (I) in any building, or part thereof, owned or used by such locality, or by any authority or local governmental entity created or controlled by the locality, for governmental purposes;
- (II) in any public park owned or operated by the locality, or by any authority or local governmental entity created or controlled by the locality;
- (III) in any recreation or community center facility operated by the locality, or by any authority or local governmental entity created or controlled by the locality; or
- (IV) in any public street, road, alley, or sidewalk or public right-of-way or any other place of whatever nature that is open to the public and is being used by or is adjacent to a permitted event or an event that would otherwise require a permit.
D.C. Suburbs Prime to Ban
The Washington D.C. suburb of Alexandria is one of the first cities looking to exploit the new law and severely restrict gun rights in the city. Alexandria city councilors are moving forward with public comment and a vote on a proposed ordinance to ban guns completely in government buildings, parks, recreation and community centers, and at permitted events and adjoining streets.
The city council had a chance to drop the proposed ordinance at a meeting last Tuesday night. However, the council chose to continue pushing the measure. While it made a few minor amendments, they did nothing significant for gun owners. They also voted to move forward with the public comment period and final vote on June 20.
If passed, the ordinance would take effect on July 1. It would make criminals out of peaceful gun owners for merely being on a street that abuts a permitted event. The prohibition includes walking through any one of a myriad of public parks. It even includes going to City Hall to pay their taxes.
VCDL Fights Back
Seeing the writing on the wall after passage of the bill, the Virginia Citizen’s Defense League has been gearing up for just such efforts. Philip Van Cleave, VCDL president, said his group already has a plan in place to battle the expected ordinances.
“Now that the governor has signed bills into law that allow local government to implement their own gun-control, we need to get the Watch Teams for Local Governments (WTLG) committee formally implemented and running,” Van Cleave said back in April. “A watch team, which only needs to be one individual per locality, keeps a close eye on local government, looking for any gun-related items that pop up. If anything is found, they will notify the VCDL president immediately.”
Van Cleave said watch team members will be VCDL’s eyes and ears across the state. They will help fight off any potential local gun-control schemes.
“The WTLG should be watching the local county board of supervisors, city council or town council like a hawk,” he said. “Meeting agendas, which should be published prior to the meeting, should be carefully scrutinized—every meeting, every time. … Also, keeping a watchful eye on local media—television, radio and newspapers—for any local gun-related items is important.”
Also, for more information, please visit vcdl.org.