Amid Calls for Tougher Loudoun Gun Regs, Supervisors Ask for Info

After bullets from a firing range struck several homes in Willowsford, prompting calls for tougher local gun regulations from state Democrats, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors has asked for a briefing on how the county came to have the rules it has today.

Supervisors have asked the county staff to come to their June 21 meeting with information about the local ordinance on weapons and explosives, the process by which it was developed and amended, and relevant state law.

County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), who proposed the briefing, said there was no reason for “overreaction” or “knee-jerk reactions.”

“I don’t want to just focus on the incident in Willowsford,” Randall said. “Since 2013, we’ve had quite a bit of growth in the county and it is possible that some growth has happened in areas that this, the current ordinance, would impact or effect.”

Other supervisors agreed that Loudoun’s growth may have already caused the existing rules, which were last revised in 2013, to become outdated. Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said he is “as strong a supporter of the Second Amendment” as anybody, but said it would be prudent to look at “options for making targeted adjustments that would address this situation.”

He said in one of the two homes that were struck, a person was home holding a child when the round hit.

“There has been a lot of change on the ground, especially in certain areas of the Transition Policy Area, where a lot of new houses are now in areas where they weren’t the last time this was looked at,” Buffington said.

Local ordinances already prohibit discharging firearms in the county’s Suburban Policy Area, which covers most of eastern Loudoun. However, Willowsford is in the Transition Policy Area, which covers 22,813 acres stretching from south of Leesburg to along the Prince William County border. It is intended for low-density residential development, and has seen rapid growth in the past decade.

Some supervisors were also critical of county law enforcement’s response.

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and Commonwealth’s Attorney have declined to press charges against the people who fired the shots that struck homes on Indigo Run Place, Virginia Gold Lane and Foxtail Fields Drive in the Willowsford neighborhood. The Sheriff’s Office reported the property where the shooting was being done was in compliance with state and local laws.

Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) cited state law that prohibits handling “recklessly any firearm so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person,” and another that prohibits firing across streets.

“There is no way that this bullet got to those houses without crossing a street,” Higgins said. “So either one of those code sections could have been enforced in this case, and maybe we should call up the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and get them to come down and investigate, and see if they won’t enforce state code.”

“In my opinion, you are responsible … for every round that comes out of the gun that you pulled the trigger on, and wherever that round ends up, you are responsible,” Buffington said. “And I am saddened and disappointed in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office that they are not pressing charges.”

Two weeks ago, eight Democrats from Loudoun’s state delegation signed a letter calling on the county board to also outlaw the discharging of firearms in the Transition Policy Area.

“While the Virginia code addresses the use of firearms and destruction of property, state code provisions are primarily designed to remedy injuries or damages after they have already occurred,” the letter states. “It is our opinion that the local zoning code better provides a mechanism to proactively reduce the likelihood of injuries or damages from stray gunfire occurring in the first place.”

The letter seeking the gun restrictions was signed by Senators Jennifer Wexton (D-33) Barbara Favola (D-31) and Delegates Jennifer Boysko and Delegates John Bell (D- 87),Karrie Delaney (D-67), Wendy Gooditis (D-10), Kathleen Murphy (D- 34) and David Reid (D-32).

“While the Virginia code addresses the use of firearms and destruction of property, state code provisions are primarily designed to remedy injuries or damages after they have already occurred,” the letter states. “It is our opinion that the local zoning code better provides a mechanism to proactively reduce the likelihood of injuries or damages from stray gunfire occurring in the first place.”

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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