The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office has obtained a criminal charge for reckless
On Sunday afternoon, deputies were called to a scene were a woman had been struck by a bullet outside her home. They determined the shots were fired from a nearby property on Gable Farm Lane east of Hamilton where residents were target shooting on private property.
The bullet, which is estimated to have been shot from 1,800 to 2,000 feet away, grazed the woman’s shoulder and may have then ricocheted off the victim’s house. She was treated at the scene and did not require further medical treatment.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, two adult males and two adult females were shooting into a natural berm. One person has been charged, but as of Tuesday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office had not released their names pending service of the charge.
The Sheriff’s Office has custody of all the firearms that were in use at the private shooting range.
It is only the latest is a series of incidents in which bullets from target shooting ranges have left the shooter’s property and struck somewhere else, including an incident in late 2018 in which fully automatic weapon fire struck homes in Willowsford. At two of those houses, people were home. One family was outside, and one person lying on the couch holding his baby when a bullet struck nearby.
The Board of Supervisors has so far declined to enact tighter restrictions on where guns can be fired in Loudoun, and the Sheriff’s Office and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office have not obtained any convictions in the recent target shooting incidents.
Supervisors last year sought recommendations from a gun safety working group, which was made up of the County Attorney, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the county Department of Mapping and Geographic Information, the Sheriff’s Office, and representatives from four hunting organizations. That group recommended only minor changes to the county’s gun rules.
The board’s Transportation and Land Use Committee voted against all of those recommendations except one: exploring the possibility of requiring berms for target shooting on private property. That vote was taken in February, with no further public action since.
While the Board of Supervisors’ three Democrats have consistently pushed for tighter gun safety rules, the board’s Republican majority has been split. Some Republicans, like Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) and Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run), have supported some updates to Loudoun’s gun rules; others, including Transportation and Land Use Committee Chairman Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin), have opposed any change to Loudoun’s rules.
Sunday’s shooting—the first to result in an injury—prompted renewed calls for action.
“While I’m grateful the latest shooting incident in a heavily populated area of Loudoun did not result in loss of life, I don’t believe the safety of Loudoun’s families should be left to chance,” wrote County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) in a statement Monday. “Loudoun County has seen over eight incidents of stray bullets from backyard shooting ranges in the last eighteen months.”
Meyer joined the chorus of concern in a Facebook post.
“Houses getting shot in Western Loudoun have become a monthly occurrence, and now this,” Meyer wrote. “None of the house shootings have been successfully prosecuted during this Board term, and we should all hope this shooter will face justice—but without County law changes, it is doubtful.”
After the shooting, Higgins, Del. Dave Dave A. LaRock (R-33), and Caleb Kerschner, the Republican nominee to take Higgins’s place on the county dais, issued a joint press release which avoided mentioning any possible changes to law but quotes LaRock as saying he takes “any activity or incident which involves public safety very seriously.”
“Sheriff Mike Chapman is investigating this incident and if that investigation reveals that laws governing the use of firearms have been violated, I am confident the persons found to be at fault will be held accountable,” LaRock stated.
The press release asserts “Western Loudoun is a mix of clustered homes and large tracts of land used for agriculture where guns are a necessity.”
Higgins did not respond to a request for comment.