Initially scheduled to vote on the measure Feb. 10, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors instead moved a vote on several ordinance amendments to prohibit firearms in county buildings, public parks and recreational community centers to March 2.
The board voted 7-2, with supervisors Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin) opposed.
County staff is expected to provide information that clarifies the legality of the amendments and the process of obtaining a concealed permit as supervisors.
“I have every confidence that Loudoun County will pass an ordinance on March 2 of some sort,” Supervisor Juli Briskman (D-Algonkian) said.
In September 2020, county staff was directed to prepare a draft ordinance to implement its authority to regulate firearms in buildings owned or used by the county, public parks owned or operated by the county and in recreation or community center facilities operated by the county as authorized by Virginia Code 15.2-915.
Briskman brought the item forward after several gun-control measures were signed into state law, including SB 35 and HB 421, which allow localities to regulate firearms in public buildings, parks, recreation centers and during permitted events.
County staff said if the board adopts an ordinance prohibiting the possession of firearms in county places such as public buildings, parks and recreation centers, there would be fiscal impacts in creating signage, staff training on proper procedural protocol and public outreach. Staff estimated the costs to be less than $15,000.
Screening at specified facilities would also require initial and continuing costs. Staff recommended that if the ordinance is adopted, the government center be equipped with a screening station.
Deanna Cain, a Leesburg resident, backed Briskman’s effort. During the board meeting Wednesday, Cain said the county’s parks and public spaces have become “a peaceful and much-needed escape for many residents” during the COVID-19 pandemic. She urged the board to vote for the ordinance amendment because “we are asking you to keep our community safe.”
Briskman was prepared to vote on the item, but she withdrew her motion due to the lack of support by the full board. Instead, the vote was moved to the March 2 business meeting after a proposed supplemental ordinance amendment was included in the board’s agenda packet last week by Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large).
Randall apologized to Briskman for not contacting her after sending out the supplemental ordinance amendment on Feb. 4.
The supplement included an additional ordinance amendment that would permit the possession of firearms in county parks for those holding a valid concealed handgun permit. The revised proposed ordinance specifies certain restrictions on the type of firearm and ammunition capacity that may be carried by such concealed handgun permit holders.
More than 30 people were scheduled to speak in-person and by phone Wednesday. Each speaker provided mixed views on the ordinance amendment. Many brought or were wearing signs, badges, stickers and apparel that advocated for their side of the debate.
Some speakers said they were concerned about the safety of themselves and the community, while others felt their Second Amendment rights were being infringed.
Steve Birnbaum, a security director and advisor for synagogues across the region, supported the supplemental ordinance amendment introduced by Randall.
He said, “The supplemental will ensure that we can support our community safety both in groups with volunteer security and when we are alone with our families and children, especially in parts where we are isolated or police can take well over half an hour to reach us if something happens.”
Chris Anders, director for the Virginia Constitutional Conservatives and a frequent and vocal Second Amendment supporter, opposed the ordinance amendments. He said no matter the measures taken, they will eventually become moot.
“No matter what you do, it will be rendered null and void, and once again, the commonwealth will be a bastion for liberty,” he said, referencing future elections.
Buffington attempted to table the entire matter, but the motion failed 2-7, with only Kershner supporting.
“Why are we trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist?” Buffington said. “This is a matter where statistics matter, and statistics prove here that making gun free zones is a dangerous and bad idea. And so, I agree that we should follow the statistics here by not creating another gun-free zone.”
Randall said she was willing to move back the vote out of respect for the board. She said the board can spend time before the March 2 business meeting asking the questions needed to make a judgement on the ordinance amendments.
“I don’t think there’s anything else I can possibly research, but I am happy to try to research — although I’ve enjoyed the research — I’m happy to have to keep talking to people until between now and March 2,” she said.