Few things outside of the Seminary Road diet can rile the public comment portion of an Alexandria City Council meeting like proposed gun control legislation.
At a City Council meeting on Tuesday, the Council unanimously approved moving forward with a sweeping ban on firearms on or near city property — including parks — or on streets near permitted events.
According to the city ordinance:
The poession, carrying or transportation of firearms in any building, or part thereof, owned or used by the City or by any authority or local government entite created or controlled by the City for government purposes or in parks owned or operated by the City, or by any authority or local government entity created or controlled by the City in any recreational or community center facility operated by the locality, or by any authority or local government entity created or controlled by the City and in any public street, road, alley, or sidewalk or public right-of-way or any other place of whatever nature that is open to the public and is being used by or is adjacent to a permitted event or an event that would otherwise require a permit, is prohibited.
Exceptions are made in the legislation to military personnel acting within the scope of their official duties, law enforcement officers, private security personnel hired by the City and historical reenactors or other persons who possess a firearm that is inoperative and not loaded with ammunition, provided the reenactor is participating in or travelling to or from a historical reenactment.
Anyone violating the law would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanour.
The ordinance was unanimously approved at the City Council meeting and is scheduled for a public hearing and final passage on Saturday, June 20. If approved, the ordinance will go into effect on July 1.
The ban had been previously approved but the City Council has since gotten the legislative approval necessary to implement it.
After the issue received some attention from the NRA website, many of the speakers were staunchly positioned against the ordinance. One speaker, Mark Shinn, said the ordinance was part of the “liberal anti-gun agenda” that Alexandria will turn into the “violent, gang-infested warzones of Chicago and Baltimore.”
Some said the ordinance would make it effectively impossible for legal gun owners to travel through the city, with parks and streets near permitted events swept up in the ban.
“This creates an undue legal burden on gun owners as it’s virtually impossible to know or identify all buildings or parts thereof owned or used by the city or any authority or controlled by the city for government purposes,” said Michael MacKay. “As you can see, this maze of constantly shifting obstacles jeopardizes all legal gun owners’ ability to possess, carry or transport firearms without unknowingly committing a Class 1 misdemeanour.”
Speaker Timothy Angers requested that the city make an exception for those with concealed carry permits, arguing that they have been properly vetted and trained.
“[Othewise] the city becomes a minefield for permit holders,” Angers said. “Just cutting through a pocket park or going near an event could land a permit-holder in jail for a year.”
The ordinance did have some defenders in the public hearing, though. Local resident Sarah Bagley argued the ordinance protects local areas the same way federal government offices are protected.
“[The ordinance] is an effort by our Council to prohibit possession, carrying and transportation of firearms in city buildings and parks,” Bagley said. “Whatever is good enough to protect our President and the Senate is good enough for our schools and public spaces.”
Staff photo by James Cullum