Discharge of Firearms Amendment 2 | Board Room

Pro-gun and gun-control voices were heard at the Board of Supervisors public hearing Wednesday night.

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday night in favor of amending its county ordinance in hopes of curbing the number of stray bullets striking homes or landing in adjacent properties.

County officials say at least 20 instances of errant gunfire have occurred in recent years, and in three of those cases people were struck. Three people have been charged in those cases, though none have been convicted.

One of the major challenges for the board was finding a legislative way to assist law enforcement and investigators in prosecuting instances of multiple shooters using the same gun.

After lengthy public input Wednesday, the board voted 6-3 to update Section 684.03(d) of the county’s codified ordinance to include in the 100-yard discharge ban “all occupied structures” and to adopt Section 684.03(e), which will make it a violation for projectiles to leave the boundaries of a property unless permission has been given by the adjacent property owner. (See full motions below.)

Supervisors Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin), Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) opposed the measures. Buona and Higgins said the board’s action won't solve the problem.

“It added another layer to the codified ordinance, but it still does not solve the problem that is essential to the issue, and that is who actually fired the round, wherever it went,” Higgins said. “I don’t know of anyone from law enforcement or the commonwealth’s attorney's office that said this is any more enforceable than the other reckless discharge of firearms [charges], because unless you know who fired the round and pulled the trigger, you don't have the evidence to prosecute.”

Buona added, “It doesn't solve it. You still have the same problem that we have right now if this passes because if five of you were out there ... and one round goes off, how do they know which one of you was firing? They don't. We have that problem right now. That's why we haven't prosecuted ... but the fact of it is it doesn't solve the core problem of who fired the weapon. And until you know that you really can't prosecute somebody … "

Broad Run Supervisor Ron Meyer (R) disagreed. He offered the motion to adopt the amended changes.

“This is lowering the burden of proof, getting rid of reckless so you don't have to prove recklessness, and also saying that people have to shoot in such a manner as they contain the bullet in their property,” Meyer said. "That means you don't necessarily have to tie the bullet directly to the shooter, you have to show the shooters were shooting in such a manner that would have led the bullet to have left the property. So, that is different, and that's exactly why we crafted this the way we have.”

Discharge of Firearms Amendment 1 | Government Center

Forty-five speakers signed up for Wednesday's public hearing in Loudoun County. Pictured are gun rights supporters gathering inside the government center to show their opposition against amendments to the county's firearms ordinance.

Forty-five speakers signed up for Wednesday's public hearing. Most speakers opposed the proposals. They suggested additional education and further called for Loudoun to become a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.”

Across the commonwealth, several counties have recently declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuary," meaning in essence law enforcement won't comply with new or stricter gun regulations.

Supervisors have not formally taken up any matters relating to a "Second Amendment Sanctuary."

Virginia Constitutional Conservatives Director and Loudoun County resident Chris Anders presented the board a stack of petitions against new gun regulations.

“It is truly a violation of good governance that I, as well as many here today, have to petition the county from infringing on our individual rights,” Anders said. “For you see, in a republic, a mob rule does not exist. However, that is exactly what some this crowd believe they are here to do, to force you to vote away my individual liberty and private property rights.”

Hillsboro resident George Melik-Agamirian questioned Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) after she stepped off the dais to a take a personal call from a family member. He called the proposals "racist" and “a crime."

“… why are you pushing racist gun control decrees on Loudoun County residents, especially you, Koran [Saines] and Phyllis Randall, who ran out of the room. You are doing the work of the KKK. Yes, I said it, the KKK,” Melik-Agamirian said. "You two owe your seats on this board to the countless thousands of civil rights activists who fought for justice. If not for their sacrifice you would still be riding in the back of the bus, and now with these ordinances, these incremental steps, you are turning back the clock to the bad old days.”

Randall and Saines are African American.

Leesburg resident Julia Holcomb, meanwhile, represented those in the boardroom who supported the proposals. She further agreed with a recommendation made by Blue Ridge Supervisor Tony Buffington (R) last month to include “a method of containment” language in shooting restrictions. 

" ... you learned when you were five to keep your hands to yourself, to keep the projectiles from your firearms on your own land ...” Holcomb said. “I’m with Mr. Buffington. Any reasonable and thoughtful and properly using gun owner knows that already. They really shouldn't need to be told it, should they?”

Buffington reiterated in his comments that the board’s action is to update the ordinance language, not to take away any property or hunting rights.

“We are absolutely not voting away private property rights. We are saying shoot on your property, but don't infringe on your neighbors right to have your bullets fly through his property or her property,” Buffington said.

Randall wrapped up remarks by saying the subject has been a challenge for her since discussions started last summer. 

"The berming idea was a bad idea,” Randall said. "Once I really went and researched that, I realized it was a bad idea and a really costly idea, and so I realized that probably shouldn't happen. But rounds leaving people's property, I don't think that should happen either—so I will be absolutely supporting this."

The board directed county staff to move forward with providing information to the public on the ordinance changes, the importance of using firearms safely, identifying safety training opportunities and providing locations for shooting venues.

________

Motions approved on Dec. 11:

-I move that the Board of Supervisors approve and adopt amended language to the Codified Ordinances of Loudoun County Section 684.03(d), “the discharge of firearms is prohibited within 100 yards of a building with a current occupancy permit and/or regularly occupied structure, unless the owner or authorized agent has given permission” as provided in Attachment 1 to the December 11, 2019, Board of Supervisors Public Hearing Staff Report.

-I further move that the Board of Supervisors approve and adopt new language creating new Section 684.03(e) in the Codified Ordinances of Loudoun County stating, “The discharge of firearms for recreational or target shooting purposes shall be conducted in such a manner as to ensure that projectiles do not leave the boundaries of the property or parcel upon which the shooting is occurring, unless permission to do so has been granted by the owner of the property or parcel upon which the projectile lands. A projectile leaving the boundaries of the property or parcel shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this section” as provided in Attachment 1 to the December 11, 2019, Board of Supervisors Public Hearing Staff Report.

______________

Timeline:

Stray gunfire has become an increasing concern in Loudoun County. Here's a rundown of the issue over the past 18 months:

-May 6, 2018: Three homes in Loudoun hit by stray bullets from a machine gun traveling a third of a mile. No charges were brought forth because law enforcement could not determine which of the four people fired the firearm.

-June 21, 2018: Proposal to change the county's weapons and explosives ordinance turned down. A working group is formed to study the safety concerns identified by the board.

-Dec. 4, 2018: Board of Supervisors opts against ordinance change, passes on working group report, sends matter to Land Use and Transportation Committee for review. At least eight incidents of stray gunfire striking a building reported since May.

-Feb. 25: Land use committee considers requiring target shooters to use backstops to capture gun discharges. Committee recommended the board update Section 684.03(d) of the county’s codified ordinance to include the 100-yard discharge ban for all occupied structures. Item stalled.

-April 29: Times-Mirror learns via email from county staff that the firearm safety is expected to be on the land use committee agenda in May.

-May 28: Item not included on agenda for land use committee.

-Sept. 8: A woman reports being struck by an errant bullet in the 39600 block of Gable Farm Lane between Leesburg and Hamilton. Woman treated for minor injuries. Sheriff's office says a charge is pending.

-Sept. 24: Land use committee forwards firearms ordinance amendment to full board; measure would require some form of backstop for private shooting

-Nov. 7: Board of Supervisors directs staff to advertise for ordinance change to include "bullet trespass" language.

_________

Here was Supervisor Matt Letourneau's (R-Dulles) takeaway from the vote and the new ordinance:

(46) comments

ChickenChucker

Mr. amygirlie, my apologies for beimg [offtopic], but you wrote with no understanding, do you want to do pushup's to settle the argument. I could just send you a case of Polident.

amerigirl

Chicky, what are you talking about?

debbbie

Florida State Law - "Trespass while in possession of a firearm is a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine up to $5,000. A person who knowingly propels or causes to be propelled any potentially lethal projectile over or across private land without authorization also commits felony trespass. A potentially lethal projectile includes any projectile launched from any firearm, bow, crossbow or similar tensile device." Another example of a sensible law.

jke

Poke and hope? Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday night in favor of amending its county ordinance in hopes, WTH?

amerigirl

I guess they can't say that there won't be some idiot out there that is going to end upi shooting someone or a house anyway.

ChickenChucker

Do you all realize the "prima facie" evidence part they added to law means you are screwed whether you fired the weapon or not. If someone shoots into a neighboring house you are considered guilty whether you were the one who fired the weapon or not. They don't have to prove who owns the gun or what gun fired the bullet. There are brands where you can't even match a barrel of the gun with the bullet because of the method used to rifle the barrel. There are some guns with no rifling. Somebody might get free room and board at the local jail for something you didn't do. That's what happens when you legislate based on emotion. You are supposed to study the ramifications of any law before you pass it. Didn't anybody watch the impeachment hearings. you don't need proof to be convicted, you don't even need a law to be convicted. Your rights are slowly being whittled away. To be on the safe side, if someone breaks into your house and threatens you and you have to shoot them, make sure they are not standing in front of a window, they can charge you regardless of what the law states, the judge or CA may not know the law any better than you do. You still might have to hire and pay for an attorney.

amerigirl

reread it. Most people would not have the concern that they might be blamed for shooting someone else or their property, why can't you be that cautious? People are more important than you taking the chance of hitting someone while playing with you gun. You need to be more responsible. There should be no study, people have the right to live in and enjoy their own property. It is the responsibility of those that could endanger them to find a way that their playtime is done safely.

debbbie

A reasonable ordinance that doesn’t infringe on the 2nd Amendment whatsoever.

LetFreedomRing

I’m a conservative and a gun owner. I support these amendments. I love my guns just as much as anyone but unless a life is being defended, no one’s bullets have any business crossing my property.

amerigirl

Sanity prevails.

David Dickinson

This sounds like politicians at their best. Worthless ordinances that won't change anything so both sides can tout some form a victory.

amerigirl

It might be worthless to you but it has a much higher chance of saving a life than taking one.

Ald-Nova

Avid gun owner here. I am ok with these ordinances. They actually make sense, and that's rare in politics. Well Done Loudoun. Now, we just have to hope the state lawmakers don't do anything crazy like banning rifles or limiting round capacities.

MitchT

I've been advocating for something like this on this forum and direct to BOS for a long time--even as I've been arguing against the no-sense and meaningless attempts to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.

It was sad that my supervisor, Geary Higgins, did not respond to my request that such a law to enable accountability be passed. It's also sad to see what appears to be knee-jerk reactions from pro-2A people. Really, you're going to argue the horrors of requiring accountability of idiots who shoot, or let others shoot, without accounting for the safety of those around them? That kind of thoughtless argument plays right into the hands of the gun-grabbers.

Had all of us pro-2A folks rose up and demanded accountability, and dealt with those who endangered their neighbors (held them up as bad examples in public--without vitriol, called for their public apology, demanded restitution, called for prosecution, etc.) we might not have needed this law. We can police ourselves as a community, or force those who are in office to take action. As John Adams wrote, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." If you don't want the government encroaching on your rights, you'd better be doing your part to help the community reflect that--and that includes demanding accountability for those who endanger the community.

LoudounClear

You're making a lot of sense, MitchT. Few want to be "gun grabbers" but the majority wants to feel like they're not going to be accidentally shot by thoughtless gunplay. Sorry more Pro-2A people don't share your view.

ChickenChucker

Thank you for the quote from John Adams. It proves that prayer in school, government or anywhere is not unconstitutional. SCOTUS'S rulings are incorrect on the subject of religion. The writings of our founding fathers were meant to be considered by the court in interpreting the Constitution. Ask any Constitutional Law expert, not just any lawyer, an expert.

amerigirl

Chicky, it’s like you didn’t even read the quote. It is saying that if people infringe on the rights of the community that the community must do something about it, like hitting homes and people with stray bullets that endanger the community. It says nothing about school prayer. Here are some quotes from our forefathers to consider when you make those kinds of statements. 1797 Treaty of Tripoli signed by John Adams, “The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”. ~John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” (1787-88) “Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery. Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802 “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814 “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” “Every new and successful example of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance”James Madison. “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.” James Madison; Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments. No religious doctrine shall be established by law.”Elbridge Gerry, Annals of Congress 1:729-731. The court did interpret the meaning which is why there is no longer prayer in school.

RandomName2019

It's embarrassing to see the significant turnout for this issue and the number of speakers lined up to "protect" their gun rights, when compared to a typical meeting, where meaningful and significant issues are being addressed and voted on, and no one is present.

Taxes? No need to be there for that. Land use? No need to be there for that. Zoning? Infrastructure? Environmental issues? Transportation? Nope, let's skip those.

Trying to come up with a solution that holds your neighbors accountable for firing weapons into your property? Time to rally.

InfoOD

Most of these folks were there to support 2A which is brought about by Northam's new gun bill. Problem with the new gun law is that it will turn almost all gun owners into a felon overnight, including myself. According to Northam's bill almost all types of guns are banned and there's no grandfather protection and no buy back from the govt. Are these people supposed to just throw away their properties bought with hard earned money. Let's say the govt ban cars that have the capability to go over 100 mph with no buy back, you'd be unhappy too. Will you just well, he didn't ban all cars, only those that goes about 100 mpg? Having said that I don't think it's a good idea for people to shoot their guns, for fun or for training, in areas surrounded by homes. Back stop or not, I've seen some videos where people use plywood as back stop, if there's a home less than a mile in the direction you're shooting it should not be allowed, if you have a hill in between then maybe. Go to a range for all your training and plinking. Common sense people.

BobOhneiserEsq

Round Hill guy - why do some posters have to go nasty right away? What Constitutional right are you referring to that authorizes anyone to shoot into another property deliberately and offensively? "keep and bear arms" are defensive words of support which includes mobility as allowed by state law. 4600 folks voted to accept my offer to serve without a sample ballot or party influence while about 70% of Loudoun didn't even vote. Crash and burn could refer to the other candidate who spent about $30/losing vote while I took no campaign donations. Your antagonism falls to the same place as your Constitutional logic. :-)

Supervisor Ron Meyer

Ace10 — Self defense is listed exemption from all our ordinances, including this one. It's mandated by the state.

Loudounest

Thank you from those who can't read as well as the Crime Fighters of Gotham City. Now just don't shoot houses, people or your eye out while playing!

Chris.N

Supervisor Meyer,

Thank you for clarifying that point to people who misunderstood the ramifications of this ordinance and thank you for voting to make our county safer. Law abiding citizens will not be harmed by this ordinance & I appreciate your attempt to tamp down the presumption by many people that every gun restriction violates the 2nd Amendment.

Duncan Idaho

Volpe: Lost

Higgins: Ran for Senate and lost

Buona: Didn't run, seat won by a Democrat.

MAGA, baby!

tolerantleft

91 localities have voted to become 2nd Amendment sanctuaries......

Loudoun4Trump

No ace - they criminalized shooting into your neighbors house while recklessly target shooting in a residential neighborhood.....Im sure if it was for self defense there would be no issue with use of firearm....go to silver eagle or a gun range....simple...

BobOhneiserEsq

One small step for the safety of mankind - one giant leap for Loudoun!

Imagine the indignity of forcing a shooter to actually consider where the bullet they are shooting might land before taking the shot.

Imagine the emotional strain of having to avoid shooting a bullet at a helpless animal (when that bullet can easily go 800 yards of more) and the shooter is 101 yards away from a neighbors house and the animal is running toward that house. Better get gps directions to Wegmans, Giant or Walmart so you can have meat over the winter as BOS really taking on the 2nd Amendment. :-)

RoundHillGuy

Sure glad your bid for BOS crashed and burned in a giant ball of failure Bob. Go ahead and give us two sanctimonious paragraphs on why we're all wrong to want to keep our constitutional rights Bob.

Chris McHale

Bob - I was with you up until you said the BOS taking on the 2nd Amendment. They shouldn't be taking the 2nd Amendment on but supporting and defending it as was their oath of office.

amerigirl

LOL[beam]

ace10

If I'm reading this correctly, the Loudoun BoS has criminalized self defense. Is that correct? If a man and woman are walking down the street and a violent felon approaches them armed with a knife, one or both of those people will be committing a crime by repelling that attacker by firing a weapon? And Loudoun's residents will be committing a crime if they shoot a home invader in a typical suburban housing development? Surely that cannot be correct.

Chris McHale

Ace10 - self defense is always legal

As a 2A advocate, I still support this measure.

LetSanityPrevail

Excellent question.

DavisB

awful question intended to disrupt the conversation and redirect focus away from the issue

ace10

And you knew the answer based on what was written in this story? Or you just don't care to know, because sheeple. No need to respond, this one's a rhetorical question.

DavisB

ACE - I knew that your suggestions are not mentioned in the article at all so you are either projecting your own phobias or trying to distract from the topic - perhaps both - in either case, not a good question

ace10

Your logic... it's broken.

amerigirl

Are you saying that you never even got the basic information on something you have been against and raising all kinds of hell about?

Chris McHale

Can we guess which supervisor was absent.

Penguin

I know....I know!!!! LOL. Are we the only two who have noticed?????

amerigirl

I think he doesn't really exist, at least not anymore. I wonder who is cashing his paychecks.

VL Martin

The vote was 6-3...nobody was absent.

Chris McHale

So now the question is who voted on behalf of Letourneau???

VL Martin

You are joking, right? I don’t see where it says that any of them were absent.

Chris McHale

Yes I was joking. It was simply intended to poke fun the Letourneau has missed a rash of votes lately.

Duncan Idaho

"Supervisors Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin), Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) opposed the measures."

So glad my supervisor (Volpe) was voted out.

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