Falls Church VA tries again


October 1, 2004, 02:43 PM
Falls Church Considers Gun Limits

Falls Church, Va. (AP) - Falls Church is drafting a policy for dealing with guns in public facilities that are located near schools.

About a dozen Falls Church residents walked into a City Council meeting earlier this week with their guns holstered to show their displeasure.

The Falls Church Community Center, a library and Cherry Hill Farmhouse are within 1,000 feet of a school. Federal law generally prohibits guns in such a zone.

A policy being drafted by the city manager tells city employees to notify police and their supervisor if anyone brings a gun to a city-operated facility, city-sponsored event or onto city-owned property. The police will determine whether the gun is being carried legally.
Virginians can openly carry weapons but must have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Opponents of the policy say it's a way to harass gun owners.

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October 1, 2004, 04:24 PM
Not very surprising, but clearly a violation of the INTENT of this year’s Virginia law that precludes local municipalities from overriding the Commonwealth’s statutes re firearms.

Standing Wolf
October 1, 2004, 04:35 PM
Opponents of the policy say it's a way to harass gun owners.

There's more on this topic at http://www.packing.org

It's apparent the town's elected misrepresentatives believe they're the successors to George III.

October 1, 2004, 05:58 PM
Federal law generally prohibits guns in such a zone.
Wasn't this knocked down by the SCOTUS a few years ago because it was based on the Commerce Clause and the court didn't buy it?

Harry Tuttle
October 1, 2004, 06:25 PM
Gun Rights' Advocates Pack F.C. Chambers to Congront Council on Police Query Policy

By Nicholas F. Benton

About three dozen members and supporters of Virginia pro-gun rights organizations appeared, most wearing handguns, at Monday's meeting of the Falls Church City Council. Many came to the microphone during the public petition period to protest a draft administrative policy developed by City Manager Dan McKeever earlier this month that calls on City employees to contact police whenever they discover person to be bearing a weapon.

McKeever developed the policy in the wake of 15 new pro-gun laws passed by the Virginia State Legislature in the spring that went into effect July 1. He said that his measures violate no existing state or federal law but simply employs "reasonable means" for assessing whether someone is carrying a weapon legally or not.

Citizens spoke strongly on both sides of the issue Monday, including a number of local Falls Church residents who stood strongly behind McKeever's policy.

But no one spoke more stridently than City Councilman David Snyder, defending McKeever's policy. "There may be places where you need your guns, but let me assure you Falls Church isn't one of them," Snyder told the pro-gun protesters. "I am proud of our community and deeply troubled that our community's ability to provide for our own safety, as we see fit, is curtailed by remote politicians and special interests who do not pay taxes here and will not bear the consequences of their own peculiar views of what is good for us."

"I support the direction of the city manager and wish we could do more, consistent with applicable law" Snyder said, and concluded his remarks with a demonstration of his own, rising to his feet to say, "Here I stand and can do no other."

Speaking as president of the 2,300-member Virginia Citizens Defense League, Philip Van Cleve of Alexandria accused McKeever of "butting heads with the General Assembly's intent" with a policy "devised to circumvent state law" to the effect of "harassing law abiding citizens."

Mike Stollenwerk of Fairfax, chairman of the Fairfax Country Privacy Council, called McKeever's policy "a mean-spirited campaign against the constitutional right to carry a gun."

F.C. resident Jason Pence called it "an ill-disguised ploy to deny the natural rights to law abiding citizens."

Among the Falls Church citizens who spoke in support of McKeever, sixth grader Julia Farbstein said that people carrying weapons "can't object to being asked why."

Elizabeth Wright noted that since it is illegal for some persons to carry weapons, "it is appropriate for the City police to ascertain the facts." She equated it to a bartender asking to see identification to prove that someone is 21. "You wouldn't exactly call that harassment, would you?" she asked.

Council member Lindy Hockenberry commented to the protesters, "While I respect your right to speak, and to use guns to hunt or for sport, I must say that I felt very uncomfortable walking into this room" (referring to the large number of protesters openly armed with guns). "It is an excruciating uncomfortableness. No one should have to feel that way in a public meeting."

Witnesses also reported that some gun-toting demonstrators were taunting citizens before the meeting, asking them if they were liberals or if they knew Jane Fonda.

In a related development yesterday, despite the police confiscation of 1,982 firearms from criminal suspects last year, the U.S. House passed a bill stripping the District of Columbia of virtually all locally-enacted gun control laws. The bill passed by a 250-171 margin over the loud objection of Rep. Jim Moran from Northern Virginia.

Also, a "gang summit" drew over 400 people in Tysons Corner yesterday to mull responses to the growing threat of violent crime by organized gangs in Northern Virginia. Much of that discussion dealt with gang access to and use of guns.

While Falls Church Vice Mayor Marty Meserve suggested Monday the Council here will be revisiting McKeever policy issue before its final implementation, McKeever told the News-Press yesterday that his policy will require no action from the Council. It is still in the final draft stages, and it will take time to post signs in the City identifying the boundaries of school zones, he said. It will be about a month before his policy will be in full effect.


October 1, 2004, 08:00 PM
Wasn't this knocked down by the SCOTUS a few years ago because it was based on the Commerce Clause and the court didn't buy it?Struck down by the USSCourt in US v Lopez (1995). Congress re-passed the law in 1996 by adding the clause, "Do to the fact that gun violence really, really, really, really affects interstate commerce, we hereby pass this here law again."

Since that time it has not come up to court challenge. I'm thinkin' most self-respecting US Attorneys wouldn't want to risk the chance of being made to look stupid.


Harry Tuttle
October 2, 2004, 09:13 AM
Gun-Toting Protesters Shake Up Falls Church
30 Bear Arms in Council Chamber

By David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 2, 2004; Page B01

It seemed simple enough. Falls Church officials recently drafted a policy that would require city workers to call 911 immediately if anyone stepped onto city property carrying a gun. Police who responded would check to see if the gun was properly licensed and report their findings to city officials.

With all seven council members and many residents of this little city inside the Capital Beltway firmly in the anti-gun camp, only a few officials expected any problems with the procedures.

Think again. If the intent was to discourage gun-toting in the city, the effort has backfired.

About 30 people, pistols strapped to their hips, strode into the council's meeting this week protesting the policy and warning that it violates their constitutional right to bear arms -- and possibly state laws, as well.

The group was largely organized by Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun owners group, who drove up from his home near Richmond. He had hardly set foot in Falls Church before, but now, he vowed, the city "is going to be under a microscope."

"We weren't paying any attention to them until they did this," he said. "If they try to set some standard like this and we ignore them, then it's going to send the wrong message. . . . But if they violate state law, we are prepared to sue them."

The presence of so many pistol-packing citizens at Monday's meeting unnerved council members and, in particular, infuriated council member David Snyder, who denounced their brazen display of firearms as "intimidation" and attacked Virginia's recently enacted laws that limit local control over guns.

"It's particularly ironic that everyone on the state, federal and local levels are concerned about gang violence, and yet Virginia prevents local communities from acting against that very violence when guns are potentially involved," he said in an interview.

The debate underscores the political divide between Northern Virginia's urban communities and the conservative leanings of the General Assembly, which voted in 2002 to prohibit localities from enacting any regulations on gun use not authorized by the state.

Snyder and other council members say they are frustrated by state legislators in Richmond who seem to ignore their public safety needs when it comes to gun issues.

"It's an absolutely bizarre situation, where the citizens of Falls Church can't determine the levels of safety that they want on the facilities that they alone have paid for," Snyder added.

But gun advocates say the Falls Church policy assumes that people are doing something wrong just because they carry a gun.

Kelly Hobbs, spokesman for the Fairfax-based National Rifle Association, noted: "It's common sense to alert the proper authorities about any suspicious activity. But [Falls Church's] regulation doesn't address suspicious activities; it singles out anyone who is carrying a firearm. The concern is that law-abiding citizens will be unfairly targeted, and unnecessary strain will be put on law enforcement resources."

City Manager Daniel McKeever said his staff is combing through state and federal laws and is "legally scrubbing" the policy. Since it is an administrative policy for his staff, it does not need a vote by the council to be applied, he said.

The issue was prompted when a library worker asked McKeever in July whether people were allowed to bring guns into the library, he said.

"The policy simply says if somebody comes onto our property with a firearm, call the police," McKeever said. "If there's a violation, the police will make that evaluation. That's all we're doing. We're not trying to violate any laws that are on the books."

The sight of 30 people bearing arms at a council meeting was intimidating, several council members said.

"It was unnerving," said Vice Mayor Martha Meserve. She added: "Our staff is supposed to be on alert to look for suspicious activity, to look for terrorists, and now they're being told that if they question someone carrying a weapon, they are harassing people. You can't have it both ways."

At the same time, Falls Church's efforts will motivate gun advocates, said Van Cleave.

"It is going to backfire," he said. "It's perfect for my side. I'm going to go to the General Assembly. . . . What they are doing is not going to go over well with the legislators."


October 2, 2004, 09:40 AM
Out of curiousity, wouldn't this tie up a lot of the police units? Pardon if my logic is a bit faulty, but doesn't this policy have a chance of making the community LESS safe by elimating employee discretion?

(Ie, the difference of calling the police regarding some loonie waving a gun in the air, vs some guy minding his own business?)

I have a feeling, even if this policy is passed, it'd be ignored within 3 months.

"Ring ring Falls Church Police Department."
- "Yea, there's some guy with a chromed out revolver in a cowboy holster sitting on a public bench reading a newspaper."
"Uh... Is he doing anything besides reading a newspaper?
- "No..."

October 2, 2004, 10:06 AM
OOOHH, this is gonna be a good fight. My money's on Phil. :neener:

TFL Survivor

October 2, 2004, 10:18 AM
The sight of 30 people bearing arms at a council meeting was intimidating, several council members said


The right of the people to bear arms is paramount to ensure we don't live under tyrannical governments.

Perhaps the city council is a bit afraid of the people asserting their rights......

October 2, 2004, 11:21 AM
Way to go, lads and lassies, ride to the hunt! :D

October 2, 2004, 12:11 PM
Police who responded would check to see if the gun was properly licensed and report their findings to city officials I thought Virginia didn't license guns :confused:

October 3, 2004, 08:49 AM
"I thought Virginia didn't license guns"

You are correct (and, please, unless they are smooth-bore, they are weapons or firearms, not guns).


October 3, 2004, 11:12 AM
You are correct Oh, so a Washington Post reporter got the facts wrong on a gun control story. Wow, who'd of thunk it :neener:

October 3, 2004, 12:14 PM
My state's court system just overturned a law preventing people from carrying in public buildings as unconstitutional. I think the law prohibiting courthouses still works. But a person can happily carry into the state senate gallery if they so desire.

October 4, 2004, 10:00 AM
I thought Virginia didn't license guns

Machine guns are registered with the VA State Police.

A license is required to carry a concealed pistol. It applies to the person, not the firearm.

So the papers messed up the facts again. Who'd have thought? :rolleyes:

October 4, 2004, 11:04 AM
The journalistic mindset is that "gun registration" is the rule, not the exception. They really want it badly, so their stories reflect their views, any facts to the contrary.

How many times have we read articles or watched TV news and have them saying something like, "...the gun was legally registered," even though no registration is required. This happens even in Arizona -- lots.

Then take the example of movies where every gun is a registered gun, except when someone needs to be charged with some sort of crime.


October 4, 2004, 12:31 PM
The sight of 30 people bearing arms at a council meeting was intimidating, several council members said.

Petty politicians need to be intimitaded at every opportunity!:D

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