The Board of Supervisors’ Transportation and Land Use Committee on Monday voted to pursue only one element in a package of new gun safety regulations suggested by a county working group or state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries officers.
The debate comes after a series of incidents in which homes have been struck by stray bullets from private shooting ranges. In none of those cases have the sheriff’s office and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office been able to secure convictions, which some supervisors pointed to a problem with enforcing Loudoun’s regulations.
Supervisors commissioned a working group with representation from law enforcement, Office of the County Attorney, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and hunt clubs that proposed only minor tweaks to the law, along with recommending increased safety education and outreach. That group also found some holes in the county’s laws, such as language prohibiting firing a gun within 100 yards “of a building with a current occupancy permit” unless the owner gives permission. But many of Loudoun’s structures predate occupancy permit records—or even occupancy permits altogether—and the group recommended adding “or a structure intended for occupancy.”
Supervisors received that report during one of the longest, most chaotic meetings of their term, that saw some members opposed to more regulations on shooting in Loudoun hurl personal insults at supervisors on the other side of the debate.
Ultimately, supervisors asked for reports at the Transportation and Land Use Committee on options to: expand the area of the county where shooting is prohibited to include the entire suburban policy area, which is largely covered by other shooting restrictions already; increase the prohibited distance from primary and secondary roads for firing guns from 50 yards to 100 yards, which would match all other Virginia jurisdictions in the region; and study the possibility of requiring berms or shooting downhill for target shooting.
But after another lengthy debate in committee, supervisors will move on only one proposal: exploring the possibility of requiring berms for target shooting on private property.
Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) proposed studying that requirement but questioned whether it would be prohibitively expensive for landowners.
“The Second Amendment is one of many rights that we have,” Meyer said. “We also have the right to protection of property, we also have a right to protection of our own lives. And so, we don’t have an unrestricted right to bear arms if it infringes on other people’s rights to life and property.”
Meyer’s proposal passed 4-0-1, with County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) abstaining. The committee will hear a report on that idea at a future date.
Other motions to expand the boundaries of the area where shooting is prohibited to cover more of the county’s suburban policy area, to expand the shooting prohibition near roads to 100 yards to match the hunting prohibition and other nearby localities, or to update language prohibiting discharging firearms within 100 yards of a public park or school to include hunting with a firearm all failed in committee 3-2, with Randall and Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) in support.