Gun owners are beginning to face heavier restrictions throughout northern Virginia as localities are passing ordinances to prohibit the carrying of weapons on some public property.
Local governing boards in Arlington County, Fairfax County, the city of Alexandria and the city of Falls Church have passed ordinances that prohibit people from carrying weapons in publicly owned buildings, publicly owned parks and at certain events that require a permit. Loudoun County is considering a similar ordinance.
Violations in the four localities will be punishable by a Class 1 misdemeanor when they go into effect. In Virginia, a Class 1 misdemeanor carries penalties of up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
“Ending gun violence is not a simple problem with simple solutions,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairperson Jeffrey McKay said in a statement. “We must attack this issue from many angles, including widely supported restrictions. Our Board’s decision to ban guns from government property takes us one more step in the right direction.”
Mary Curtius, the communications manager for the Arlington County Board, told The Center Square the ordinance makes the community safer by establishing common sense rules.
“We believe that all who work, do business with or visit county buildings are safer if no one is carrying a gun,” Curtius said. “In order to avoid any misunderstanding, the ordinance goes into effect only after the county posts clear signage at all locations where it applies – within 30 days of adoption of the ordinance.”
The ordinances have received fierce opposition from gun rights groups that believe residents will be less safe when they go into effect.
“When good people are prevented from defending themselves, it allows evil people to carry out their evil deeds,” Erich Pratt, the senior vice president of Gun Owners of America, told The Center Square.
“Consider the tragic story of Kate Nixon, who worked for the city of Virginia Beach and was prohibited from carrying a firearm,” he said. “She had considered taking a gun to work because she was worried that a disgruntled employee might try to harm her fellow workers. But not wanting to break the law and lose her job, Kate left her gun at home. Sadly, she became a victim of a mass shooting.”
Along with putting people in greater danger, Pratt said when gun laws throughout the commonwealth are not uniform, it creates headaches for concealed carriers trying to follow the law.
Pratt encouraged local governments to pass Second Amendment Sanctuary ordinances, rather than stricter gun laws. More than 100 Virginia localities have passed these sanctuary ordinances.
State law used to prohibit local governments from imposing these restrictions on gun owners, but ordinances have begun to pop up after Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill into law earlier this year that allows localities to impose these restrictions.
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