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VA: Gun Owners Emboldened by New Laws

Josey1Josey1 Member Posts: 15,758
Gun Owners Emboldened by New Laws
Gun show coming to Fairfax; guns ride on hips "unconcealed," out and about.
By David Harrison
July 22, 2004
On July 31, thousands of gun enthusiasts from all over the area will descend on Fairfax County to browse among 1,000 vendors selling tens of thousands of firearms at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. The event, billed as "The Nation's Gun Show" by its organizers, is the first such event in Fairfax County in 40 years and one of the biggest gun shows the state has seen, said Steven Elliott, president of C&E Gun Shows, the Blacksburg company which is organizing the event.
"I've been doing this for 17 years and this is by far the highest quality show that I've ever produced," said Elliott. "It's going to be interesting because we've never been up there and we don't know what to expect."
The first-of-its-kind gun show in Northern Virginia is one of several instances of muscle flexing by gun rights activists recently. In the past few weeks, several members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun organization, have been openly carrying their weapons in restaurants and Starbucks, which, in some cases, has led other diners to call the police.

A party of 13 diners, several carrying visible guns, was approached by police officers at a Champps Restaurant in Reston a couple weeks ago. Jim Snyder was among the 13.
"[Police] talked to us probably for 30 seconds, then they left our immediate area, then they spent another 20 or 30 minutes trying to figure out whether what we were doing was legal and then they left," recalle Snyder, a Kingstowne resident who was carrying his gun at the restaurant. "I think the police did a very good job."
Snyder's experience and a similar one at a Starbucks store seem to have mobilized gun owners, said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.
"The incident that happened at Starbucks probably alerted a whole lot of people to the concept of open carry," he said. "Some gun owners looked at that incident and said, 'You know, I need to exercise this right.'"
Van Cleave, a software programmer from Richmond, said the incidents were not planned. "We haven't been coordinating."
"It's definitely a response," said Darrin Guthrie, the owner of All American Guns in Fairfax. "It's because a few * are making a big deal about it so everybody's pissed off."
Guthrie, a concealed permit holder, said he and other county gun owners have been carrying weapons "for years."
"Nothing's happened," he said. "I don't see what the big deal is."
Snyder said he was also surprised that people have all of a sudden become concerned about gun-toting diners. He's been taking his gun to restaurants for nine years, he said, without any problems.
But Jim Sollo, a Springfield resident who runs the advocacy group Virginians Against Handgun Violence, said the incidents of gun-carrying residents concerns him. "We've felt that the gun guys have sort of been eager to show that they can now carry their guns legally."

Restaurant managers have also voiced concern about seeing guns in their establishments. Some have posted signs near the door telling patrons that guns are not allowed inside.
"Whenever that issue comes up we get a lot of communication from out members stressing the importance of trying to separate the two," said Lynne Breaux, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. "We are opposed to guns in bars and that's always been the position of the restaurant association."
Snyder sees some hypocrisy in position of managers who oppose guns in their restaurants and bars.
"Those restaurateurs don't seem to have a problem selling alcohol to somebody who is going to get in his car and drive and there's a demonstrated problem with that," noted Snyder, who says he doesn't drink. "This is just posturing they're doing about law-abiding citizens lawfully carrying firearms where there have been no problems."

ALTHOUGH IT'S always been legal for Virginians to clip a visible gun to their belts before going out in public, gun advocates celebrated a victory in the General Assembly this year when lawmakers approved a measure, House Bill 530, prohibiting local governments from writing their own gun rules. Local governments in the Commonwealth now can only follow the state's gun rules and not impose new ones on their own.
In Fairfax County, that means the Fairfax County police have dropped the 40-year-old practice of conducting background checks on potential gun buyers. County residents who want to buy guns now only go through a state police background check, which is required by federal law. Although the two background tests duplicated each other, the county test took up to three days to complete while the state test only took several minutes, which had the practical effect of creating a waiting period for Fairfax County gun buyers. Under the new law, the county must also destroy all the records it kept when performing background checks.
Elliott, the gun show organizer, said the abolition of Fairfax County's de facto waiting period drew him to hold his first show in the county.
"Everybody's wanted to go up there [to Fairfax] for years and years," he said. "We've worked on this for years and we were finally lucky enough to be able to get some favorable legislation passed."
Arlington County also performed its own background checks, said Matt Martin, a spokesman for the Arlington County Police Department.
"There were so few stores that sold handguns in Arlington that we weren't doing that many [checks]," he said. "All in all it had no practical effect in Arlington."
In Alexandria, however, the new state law replaced a city rule that made it illegal to openly carry a gun in public in the City of Alexandria.
"It appears the Alexandria ordinance is probably invalid," said Bryan Porter, assistant Commonwealth's Attorney in Alexandria. "It's still there on the books but I don't think we'll prosecute it because of the new state code section."
But Porter, who served as a police officer in the city before becoming a prosecutor, said he has never heard of an instance where somebody was prosecuted for carrying a gun in public.
"To me that means it's unlikely to cause a whole big deal here," he said, adding that it was possible that gun rights activists might carry their guns openly in Alexandria to challenge to city ordinance. "For the next week or two there might be a slight upswing in the number."

DEL. CHAP PETERSEN (D-37) said there hasn't been much debate over gun laws in the General Assembly over the past few years.
"The basic shorthand is that when it comes to firearms, state law prevails," he said.
When he first went to Richmond in 2002, he was assigned to the House Committee on Militia and Police where members of the audience often openly carried their guns inside the hearing rooms of the General Assembly building. At first, Petersen said he was surprised.
"It was kind of like something out of 'Gunsmoke,'" he said. "I'm not used to seeing people show up at public meetings with Colt 45s strapped to their belt."
Over the years, however, he said he got "inured" to the sight.
"They're always there and they're always packing heat," he said. "It's a different culture."
Petersen, who is running for Lieutenant Governor is 2005, voted in favor of the bill preventing local governments from passing their own rules on guns.
Even though it's always been legal to carry guns openly in Virginia, the practice has some lawmakers worried.
"If you are in a place of business, in a restaurant, and someone walks through the door obviously with a gun you cannot distinguish whether they're an emotionally stable, law abiding citizen or whether it's a psycho about to commit a mass murder," said Del. Ken Plum (D-36).
Under the law, it would be legal for gang members to walk around with a guns visibly swinging from thei belts. But Martin, the Arlington County police spokesman, said police officers were not particularly concerned about gang members following the law.
"We're not worried about a gang member legally using a gun we're worried about a gang member illegally using a gun," he said. "Criminals who are going to use firearms aren't going to follow the law anyway."
Nevertheless, he said, police officers would prefer seeing fewer guns around.
"Anytime there's a firearm in the picture ... it makes officers a little more nervous," he said. Arlington police officers have responded to several calls in the past few years of gun advocates openly carrying their guns into public places such as libraries, he added.
"Just looking at it from a public safety standpoint, fewer guns out in the public is most likely a safer situation than more guns."

THE NEXT LEGISLATIVE battle over guns is likely to be over whether people with concealed weapons permits can carry a concealed weapon in a restaurant or bar. Right now permit holders must wear their guns openly if they want to go to places that serve alcohol whereas they can conceal their guns when they go just about anywhere else. The only places where guns are not allowed at all are in courts, schools and places of worship. Owners of private businesses can also refuse to serve people who carry guns.
Van Cleave, the president of Virginia Citizens Defense League, said it makes no sense to prohibit concealed permit holders from concealing their weapons in a restaurant or a bar.
"Concealed permit holders are by definition the most law abiding citizens of Virginia," he said, noting that concealed permit holders must not only pass a background check but also pass a safety training course.
An effort to allow concealed permit holders hide their weapons in restaurants and bars died in committee in 2003.
State Sen. Janet Howell has introduced legislation to ban all weapons from bars and restaurants, whether concealed or not, but her bills have also died in committee.
"It came close to passing out of the Senate's Courts of Justice Committee," she said. "It came closer than we expected."
She vowed to keep trying.
It is unclear at this point how the movement among gun owners to openly carry their weapons will affect the General Assembly. Plum and Howell said they've been deluged with calls and e-mails from angry constituents urging them to make gun-toting illegal.
Van Cleave said the attention being paid to gun laws could mobilize the public to support his efforts to allow concealed permit holders to bring their guns into restaurants and bars. But it could also galvanize the public for more gun control.
"It could go either way," he said.
To Sollo, however, the recent efforts of gun rights activists set the stage for tighter run rules in Virginia.
"If the gun boys are going to push the envelope on this, at some point, we think they're going to tick off the general public," he said.

Know Your Gun Rules
* Where can I buy a gun?
Virginia residents who have never been convicted of a felony have two ways of purchasing guns. Either they can buy a firearm from a licensed dealer or they can buy one from an individual.
If they go to a dealer, buyers have to fill out an application form and present two forms of ID. The dealer then calls a State Police 1-800 number to ask for a background check, which usually takes several minutes. If the background check doesn't turn up anything, the buyer can complete the sale and take the gun home.
If buyers choose to purchase their guns from an individual, federal and state laws do not require a background check. But Steven Elliott, president of C &E Gun Shows recommends that both buyer and seller know the other party's name and contact information.
* What happens to the records of my background check?
Records from State Police background checks are purged from the agency's computers within 24 hours. That means that no state agency keeps constant records of gun buyers in Virginia. Also, as part of the new state law, authorities in Fairfax and Arlington counties have started destroying records from their own background checks.
As a result, nobody knows how many gun owners live in Virginia nor how many guns they possess.
State police statistics show that there are about 111,000 concealed permit holders in Virginia but not every gun owner has a concealed carry permit. Phil Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, estimated there are about 3 million gun owners in Virginia.
* Do I need a permit to carry a gun in Virginia?
Gun owners do not need to register with the state or to get a permit to carry their guns openly in a holster in plain sight.
But gun owners who want to conceal their guns when they leave their home, for example under a coat, need to get a state concealed weapons permit. The permits require that an applicant complete a gun safety class.
Van Cleave said concealed permit holders are among the most law abiding citizens of Virginia because of the safety classes they have to take.
Jim Sollo, president of the anti-gun group Citizens Against Handgun Violence, has been attending the safety classes at the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax for the last three years. Last year, he said, his instructor was missing the fourth finger of his left hand.
"He at one point a few years ago got his finger up a little too high and he shot his finger off," said Sollo. "He's the guy showing others how to handle a gun safely. There's a little gallows humor there."
* How many guns can I buy?
There are no restrictions on the number of guns a Virginia resident can own.
* Where can I carry a gun?
According to state law, guns are not allowed in courts, schools and places of worship. Gun owners can legally carry their guns openly anywhere else including local government buildings and the State Capitol. Concealed permit holders are also prohibited from taking their concealed weapons into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol but they are allowed to carry their weapons openly in those establishments.
Private businesses can forbid people carrying guns from entering, said Michael Long, a county attorney for Fairfax County. That means restaurants owners who are uncomfortable with diners openly carrying weapons can ask them to leave.
"Just like they can refuse to serve you if you don't have a t-shirt," Long said.
* What happens if my gun is used in a crime?
Although the state police do not keep records of Virginia gun owners, the gun dealers are required by federal law to keep paper records as long as they are in business. That means that if a crime is committed with a gun, the police can take the gun's serial number to the manufacturer to learn which dealer sold the gun. Then police can get the name of the person who purchased the gun from the dealer.
When dealers go out of business, they must turn over all their paper records to a central facility run by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.
In the case of a private transaction, however, there is no requirement to keep a paper record of the sale. But Elliott recommended that both buyer and seller keep records in case the gun is stolen and used in a crime.

Local Effects

Before the New Law After the New Law
Fairfax County Carrying a gun openly is legal in public but gun buyers need to register with the county police as well as with the state police Carrying a gun openly is still legal but gun buyers no longer need to register with the county police. All the records on past background checks conducted by the county police must be destroyed.
Arlington County Carrying a gun openly is legal in public but gun buyers need to register with the county police as well as with the state police Carrying a gun openly is still legal but gun buyers no longer need to register with the county police. All the records on past background checks conducted by the county police must be destroyed.
City of Alexandria Carrying a gun in public is illegal anywhere in the city by city ordinance The city ordinance is preempted by the state law. It is now legal to carry a gun openly in the City of Alexandria

How They Voted
Here's how the Northern Virginia House and Senate delegations voted on HB 530 which prohibited local governments from passing their own gun laws and forced them to only follow the state law.
For the bill Against the bill
David Albo (R-42) Robert Brink (D-48)
Kristen Amundsen (D-44) James Dillard (R-41)
Dick Black (R-32) Adam Ebbin (D-??)
Vincent Callahan (R-34) Al Eisenberg (D-47)
Tim Hugo (R-40) Bob Hull (D-38)
Joe May (R33) Ken Plum (D-36)
Brian Moran (D-46) Jim Scott (D-53)
Chap Petersen (D-37) Marian Van Landingham (D-45)
Gary Reese (R-67) Vivian Watts (D-39)
Thomas Rust (R-86)
Stephen Shannon (D-35)
Mark Sickles (D-43)

For the bill Against the bill
Ken Cuccinelli (R-37) Janet Howell (D-32)
Jeannemarie Devolites (R-34) Linda Puller (D-36(
William Mims (R-33) Richard Saslaw (D-35)
Jay O'Brien (R-39) Patricia Ticer (D-30)
Mary Margaret Whipple (D-31)

Photos by David Harrison/The Connection
A handgun sits behind a display case at All American Guns in Fairfax.

Darrin Guthrie, the owner of All American Guns, said he stocks mostly handguns and military-style rifles.

"If cowardly and dishonorable men sometimes shoot unarmed men with army pistols or guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary and gallows, and not by a general deprivation of a constitutional privilege." - Arkansas Supreme Court, 1878<P>


  • Josey1Josey1 Member Posts: 15,758
    edited November -1
    Response To Assault Questioned
    Attempted sexual assault case raises concerns about safety on bike trail.
    By Gale Curcio

    Ruth Matthews wants to know why it took so long for somebody to respond to an emergency call she placed last Tuesday after learning that a teenage girl had been accosted by a man on the George Washington Parkway bike trail.
    "A 16-year-old girl was running and was accosted by a man with a gun on the trail near the Tulane Drive exit off the Parkway. There is a parking lot on the south side of the parkway there and benches on the trail. She got away, and stopped me from going in that direction, telling me there was a man with a gun ahead," said Matthews, who had been running towards where the incident had happened. Matthews stayed with the girl and together they flagged down a biker, who called 911 on his cell phone.
    "We called police using 911. It took them over half an hour to respond to the scene. Once there, one park policeman said he'd been about a mile away and that the dispatcher had sent him to Belle Haven Marina though I had clearly and repeatedly told the dispatcher that we were about one mile south of Belle Haven park on the trail.
    "The 911 dispatcher told us she couldn't reach Park Police. She sent Fairfax County police at last after asking repeatedly where we were since she was unfamiliar with the area, and then finally the Park Police showed up in force, including with a helicopter. Still, it took them over a half hour for them to get there - plenty of time for the guy with the gun to get away before the cops ever thought to come."
    Once the police did arrive, they proceeded to do a investigation with officers on foot and in helicopter. They combed the area just north of the stone bridge and Dyke Marsh, but did not find any suspects.

    DETECTIVE R.M. ABT, who is the lead investigator on the case, said that they are still investigating the incident. When asked if they were checking whether or not there was a connection to the incident that happened recently on Holmes Run bike path in Alexandria, she said that "they'd be foolish not to." She did not, however, speculate on whether or not there was any connection.
    A press release was issued by the Park Police with a general description.
    Matthews said that the victim told her that the suspect was "not tall, not very heavy - maybe 5'4", wore jeans and a light T-shirt. Maybe Hispanic. The gun was in his pants waistband in front covered by a T-shirt." The victim said that he did pull the gun as he threatened. Matthews said she asked the police what she could have done to get a faster response.
    "He thought we should have given street crossings, but what more could we have told her since we were on the trail and I hadn't noted what mile marker we were at? It's important to be aware, but as many times as I've been on that trail over the years, I don't have that mile marker info memorized - and the dispatcher didn't know the park, or the parkway, it seemed, since she was Fairfax County Police, not Park Police, and it is Park Police jurisdiction," Matthews said.
    MPO Greg Kottemann, crime prevention officer, said that he spoke to Lt. Joe Hill, commander of the Fairfax County 911 Dispatch Center, and said that it may have seemed like a long time, but the records showed that Fairfax County had responded within 10 minutes; he wasn't certain about the Park Police response. Kottemann said that while the Park Police maintain the parkway itself, Fairfax County also has concurrent criminal jurisdiction over the area. The helicopter that was sent came from Fairfax County.
    "My advice for using the bike trail is to pay attention to landmarks (like the stone bridge) and mile markers. Runners should always have a cell phone with them and we encourage people to not wear headphones while running," Kottemann said. "Recognize your surroundings and if you're not sure where you are, go out to the parkway and point out where you are."

    ABT ALSO advises runners to carry a cell phone. Matthews said that Abt told her that women alone should not be out on the bike trail without a cell phone and suggested programming the number for Park Police, which is 202-619-7300; this would eliminate the need to go through the 911 system. Matthews was also told that this number was posted along the trail, so after the incident happened, she went out and checked.
    She said that there was one notice posted by the rest rooms at Belle Haven, but the number had faded and could not be seen. Another bulletin board located near Northdown Road had the number, but that was barely legible. Matthews said that there was nothing in between.
    Matthews' main concern is that people know what's going on. She posted a report on one of the runner's clubs Web sites and is hoping that somebody will post signs (with emergency numbers) along the trail again.
    "I think that women running, walking or biking alone will want to know this happened. They can then be more alert and observant," Matthews said.

    "If cowardly and dishonorable men sometimes shoot unarmed men with army pistols or guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary and gallows, and not by a general deprivation of a constitutional privilege." - Arkansas Supreme Court, 1878<P>
  • BullzeyeBullzeye Member Posts: 3,560
    edited November -1
    The idea of somebody carrying openly in old-town Alexandria cracks me up. That area's so artsy-fartsy I bet they'd all run screaming for the hills.

    "Our finest tribute to our fallen dead would be to convince their sons that we were not Rambo and neither are they. -Gus Hasford
  • remington nutremington nut Member Posts: 961 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Bullzeye.... i was thinking the same thing ... wanna strap our pistols on and go have lunch [:D]
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