Earlier this year, when the Virginia legislature passed a law authorizing local governments to independently enact gun-control measures, many Virginians warned that this would lead to a slew of confusing, unnecessary and punitive restrictions on lawful gun owners.
Those concerns were justified.
Earlier this month, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance prohibiting the possession of firearms in all county buildings, parks, recreation and community centers, and “permitted events.” The new restriction does not exempt concealed carry permit holders, and violations constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.
This prohibition is a solution in need of a problem. Worse, the “solution” often has the effect of placing law-abiding citizens in greater danger than they were prior to its passage.
Board Chairman Jeffrey McKay stated in a press release that he is proud to have voted in favor of the new prohibition, arguing that it was “one more step in the right direction” for “ending gun violence.”
However, nothing in the ordinance addresses a type of “gun violence” (a term having to do with criminal behavior) that meaningfully exists in Fairfax County.
First, concealed-carry permit holders are one of the most law-abiding segments of society. They generally aren’t committing any crimes in any place, let alone abusing their status as permit holders to commit crimes on county property.
In fact, I have been unable to find a single instance of a concealed-carry permit holder who used his or her ability to carry a concealed firearm in furtherance of a crime committed in any of the locations listed in the ordinance.
Second, unless the county also plans to implement intensive security measures at the entrance of every piece of public property, the ordinance is virtually useless for protecting the public from would-be criminals.
People who aren’t deterred by the threat of felony convictions for homicide, assault or robbery probably won’t be deterred by the threat of a simple misdemeanor for unlawful carry.
Fairfax County officials, like most gun-control advocates, instinctively know that their “gun-free zones” cannot keep residents safe absent other extreme measures. That’s why they historically have been opposed to laws that would impose civil liability on businesses or other entities for shooting injuries that occur in places where they forced law-abiding citizens to disarm themselves.
They want it both ways—to prevent citizens from being able to protect themselves, while avoiding responsibility for ensuring the safety of those they rendered defenseless.
The ordinance is not merely useless, though. It creates additional problems for lawful gun owners who wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Consider this example from my own personal experiences. I regularly make a 15-minute walk to a friend’s house. Because of the new ordinance, should I, as a concealed-carry permit holder, wish to have the ability to protect myself during this walk, I can no longer take the shortest, safest and easiest route through a small county park. Instead, I would have to take a longer and much more dangerous route down a major street, past a strip mall where just last year I witnessed the tail end of gang-related shootout and police chase.
Moreover, by creating hundreds of pockets of “gun-free zones,” the county has now made it that much more difficult for concealed-carry permit holders, such as myself, to navigate the web of carry laws in Northern Virginia—laws that already are vastly different from those in the rest of the state. This easily risks turning turn harmless, peaceable gun owners into accidental criminals.
This patchwork of restrictions by various localities puts an undue burden on the law-abiding populace. The variance just by geography is astounding and functionally makes it difficult to embrace your rights.
Yes, Fairfax county says it will spend an untold number of dollars installing “no gun” signs on its property—money that could be much more effectively used in initiatives targeting root causes of crime.
All of these newly created problems are compounded by the reality of violence on government property in Virginia. The one time in recent memory that a person opened fire inside a government building—Virginia Beach, in 2019—city policy prevented employees from carrying guns at work, even if they had a concealed-carry permit. That policy not only failed to deter the murderer from his crimes, but we now know that it actively made the situation worse.
Katherine Nixon had, the night before the shooting, discussed with her husband whether she should bring her gun to work precisely because she feared the man who murdered her. She ultimately decided not to do so, out of fear that she would be discovered and fired.
The next day, she was shot to death by a man who simply ignored the rules. The city told her she could not protect herself at work, and it failed to provide adequate protection on her behalf. When the murderer entered her floor, she had nowhere to run, no gun with which to fire back, and no armed government agent to save her.
The policy did not protect her.
The policy got her killed.
Perhaps most grotesquely, Fairfax County officials had the audacity to point to this shooting as an example of why the ban was necessary here.
Make no mistake. When local governments pass laws prohibiting you from carrying guns in places where the government won’t then take responsibility for your protection, they’re not doing it because it’s necessary. They’re not doing it to keep you safe. They’re not doing it because it’s reasonable or rational or an effective use of funds.
They’re doing it to spit in the faces of lawful gun owners.
They’re doing it simply because, in states like Virginia, they can.