Loudoun supervisors on Nov. 7 are scheduled to again take up a long-debated gun safety rule in reaction to repeated instances of stray rounds striking properties, homes and, in one case, a woman, often with no charges
The Board of Supervisors’ Transportation and Land Use Committee has passed along a proposed local ordinance that would establish it unlawful “for any person to discharge a firearm without a backstop or method of containment that will adequately contain the projectile to the property upon which it was discharged.”
County staff members recommended adding the word “parcel” along with “property.”
The committee passed that language along without a recommendation on Sept. 24. The proposed ordinance’s fate at the Board of Supervisors is uncertain; although then-Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman and Sheriff Michael L. Chapman have indicated that the existing law does not give them the tools to charge offenders in those cases, many supervisors have opposed any change to gun laws.
And county staff members have advised that even the proposed ordinance may not address that concern. Plowman and Chapman, under criticism for not bringing charges in most cases, have argued that without a way to definitively establish which individual at a private shooting range fired the errant shots, they cannot bring charges.
Deputy County Administrator Charles Yudd told the committee the language may or may not give investigators the power to charge someone when there are multiple shooters involved, since it does not tie back directly to that situation. Sheriff’s Office Major Christopher Hines said that “every situation is different.”
The committee worked for months to come up with new rules to address the rash of shooting incidents. In all but two of those incidents, nobody has been charged, including an incident in 2018 in which rounds from fully automatic weapon fire struck homes in Willowsford. In a previous case, charges were brought but thrown out.
In the most recent incident on Sept. 7, when a bullet grazed a woman, a charge was filed. William R. Hymes III, 24, of Ashburn, was charged with reckless discharge of a firearm. His case was continued on Oct. 15 and he faces a hearing Dec. 9.
The committee’s work follows more than a year of debate among supervisors. Board members first asked for a briefing on the county’s gun laws in May 2018 after bullets from a private firing range struck several homes in Willowsford. Earlier in their term in 2016, Republican supervisors shot down a resolution recognizing National Gun Violence Awareness Day.