Loudoun Supervisors Launch Effort to Ban Guns at County Facilities

County supervisors, after a debate that stretched past midnight Tuesday, voted to launch work to outlaw firearms at public facilities like the government center, community centers, libraries, and parks.

The county was granted the authority to do so with the latest General Assembly session. At least three other Northern Virginia localities have already begun work implementing this new rule—Alexandria has already adopted an ordinance, and Arlington and Fairfax Counties are in the process.

County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) pointed out that gun restrictions in publicly owned spaces are not new—including in spaces controlled by gun rights advocates such as the White House and U.S. Senate.

“I would agree that the president’s position is much more powerful and much more important than my position, but I would also say I’m not sure that his life is much more important than my life,” Randall said.

Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) said she has constituents whose freedom of speech is curtailed because they are too afraid to come to the government center on nights its filled with armed protesters.

“For the sake of those people in this county who do not feel safe in this chamber, to come in and express their feelings because they see guns in the chamber, I’m going to vote for them,” Umstattd said.

Supervisors Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin), on the other hand, argued that outlawing guns in public spaces makes those spaces more dangerous.

“The only people that obey any of these are good guys with guns,” Buffington sad. “Bad guys with guns are bad guys with guns, and they don’t obey the law, so we can make all the laws that we want, none of it matters.”

“We’re going to be, as the old adage said, like fish in a barrel,” Kershner said. He later added: “People should have the right to protect themselves. I don’t want to have to depend on someone else to wait to fight back as I watch a shooter or bad actor systematically shoot staff or lethally attack my family or my friends in a public place.”

It is already policy that county staff members do not carry firearms while working, a policy approved in 1995, according to Director of General Services Ernie Brown.

“Sometimes I wish I was on the Supreme Court, because when you’re on the Supreme Court, and there’s a decision, you can choose which parts of the majority opinion to agree with an which parts to disagree with, and that’s the situation that I find myself in somewhat often on this board in this term,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). He said, while he agreed with Randall’s point on gun-free government buildings, he also agreed with Buffington and Kerhsner’s point about the “fecklessness of simply putting a sign out that says it’s a gun-free zone, and not thinking that someone will ill will is going to commit their crime anyway.”

“There are armed guards here, and so I am supportive of a measure that would restrict weapons in a facility like this where we have the ability to control it—‘good guys with guns,’ so to speak, such as the gentleman in the back of this room.”

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office posts an executive detail to maintain security at the county government center, along with the Shenandoah building also in Leesburg and the Ridgetop Circle center in Sterling—two other county government buildings that are open to the public.

Seeing that some sort of gun ban was likely to pass, Buffington sought a compromise position, moving only to prohibit them inside buildings, but not in county parks. He hastened to add even that he does not personally support.

“I’m not doing this for political reasons, because if I was, I would have just voted no and stuck to my guns with what I said the first time,” Buffington said. “If this passes, when people research what happened, they’ll see that I made this stupid motion. I mean, it’s going to look like Buffington thought this was a great idea.”

However, the motion to narrow the scope of the proposed prohibition failed, with only Buffington, Kershner and Letourneau voting in favor. Instead, supervisors voted 6-2-1 to begin work on the broader rule. The six Democrats voted in favor, Buffington and Kershner opposed, and Letourneau abstaining.

“Don’t you all wish that we had had a good 911 system before Fitz drowned?” said Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian), referring to failures in the 911 response the night 16-year-old Fitz Thomas drowned at the confluence of the Goose Creek and Potomac River. “Don’t you wish we would have had a better system to mark the river before that incident happened? That’s what we’re talking about here. We can prevent a tragedy by instituting a policy that makes our citizens safer.”

That vote begins a process that includes public hearings and another vote.

Another possible new ordinance, to also restrict guns at county-permitted events, narrowly failed over concerns of the vagueness of the language in the state law. It was not immediately clear what the state law allows the county to do—there is no definition for permitted events.

“The staff and I have had considerable discussion about what we think or don’t think this language says,” said County Administrator Tim Hemstreet. “I think the staff conclusion is that this language is, at best, inartfully written.”

“This one feels like the majority of it is unintended consequences,” Randall said.

That motion was voted down 5-4, with Umstattd, Turner, Briskman and Vice Chairman Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) in favor.

Readers Poll: Should county supervisors prohibit the possession of firearms on publicly owned properties?

Protests and Public Outcry

The possibility of new gun restrictions attracted a new round of demonstrations.

On Sunday, Loudoun Moms Demand Action held a socially-distanced rally to ask supervisors to use their new authority. Organizers said they held the event Sunday, and not the day of the meeting, to avoid attracting armed counterdemonstrators to an event where demonstrators had brought their children.

During the meeting Tuesday, pro-gun demonstrators met chanted and heard speeches outside the building during a protest organized by Virginia Constitutional Conservatives.

“They would rather see women jogging in the park raped than carry firearms, they would rather see you shot than to see you be able to carry a firearm,” said Virginia Constitutional Conservatives founder Chris Anders. “Our founding fathers would be ashamed of us.”

He pledged the “take those seats back” in the county board and General Assembly in 2021.

“We will hold accountable, with your help, any one of the supervisors who vote to create mass killing zones,” Anders said. “We will hunt them down in the next election, and regardless of party affiliation, we the people will take back Virginia, Loudoun County and our God-given liberty.”

Virginia Constitutional Conservatives organizer Chris Anders speaks outside the county government center Tuesday, Sept. 1. [Renss Greene/Loudoun Now]

The rally also hit on other topics, such as when former state Sen. Dick Black protested taking down Confederate monuments.

Similarly, people on both sides of that debate spoke to supervisors during public input inside the boardroom.

“I’ve been in this room through some of the most contentious issues in this county,” said Mike Taylor. “Not once have I been concerned about someone with a firearm.”

Steve Birnbaum said he works in security for a number of synagogues in the area after experience in counter-terrorism with the Israeli armed forces. And he said while the synagogues usually hold ceremonies in their own spaces, sometimes—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic—they have had to go outside into public spaces, where he said he would be less able to protect congregants if guns were prohibited.

“Anti-semitic attacks are increasing under COVID,” he warned.

One pro-gun speaker caused a stir by reciting a graphically violent fantasy of Briskman dying when a “Black Lives Matter supporter” murdered a person driving with a shotgun, then the driver’s Jeep hit her. Chris Rohland, who was carrying a pistol tucked into his waistband and wearing a sheer veil in place of a mask, was gaveled down and told by Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) that that was not appropriate for the boardroom.

“Juli Briskman is more likely to die in the scenario I just described given the increasingly violent nature of people who hate President Trump, than she is sitting in a county owned government building with no less than two sheriffs present,” Rohland said.

“We are not safer when people carry guns with them all the time everywhere,” said Ami Miller, a volunteer with the Loudoun chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Guns can turn a simple disagreement or misunderstanding into a tragedy. In 2016 in Algonkian Park, a 10-month-old Labrador was shot and killed by a concealed carry permit holder because the dog was off its leash and nearby. The gun owner kept his permit, and today he’s free to visit our parks.”

She also argued against the idea that gun owners are safe and responsible with their guns, citing the three incidents over the past two weeks of accidental discharge including one in which a man injured himself.

“Our opposition would have you believe that we are safer with people like these three carrying guns,” Miller said. “We are not. No one should have to worry about the presence of firearms when they take their kids to a playground, to the library, to a soccer match, or to pay a bill at the county government building.”

rgreene@loudounnow.com

22 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Launch Effort to Ban Guns at County Facilities

  • 2020-09-02 at 12:37 pm
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    Every single gun owner who voted for a liberal thinking they weren’t going to do everything in their power to take away/limit gun owners rights needs to sit back and think about what they have done. These new “laws” will not save one single life. Not one person intent on shooting up a government property is going to adhere to the rules that come out of the Loudoun County BOS. A person would have to be an idiot to think otherwise, oh wait……..

    Bravo liberals, one more bit of American freedom is gone. I have never understood people who talk about freedom so much being in favor of more laws/rules.

  • 2020-09-02 at 12:46 pm
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    How ignorant can the Board of Supervisors be? You have nothing to fear from legal gun owners, it is the illegal gun owners you are worried about and this does nothing to stop them. Making schools and places of gun free zones has not made them safer, it has made them targets. Shame on you for not know the facts.

  • 2020-09-02 at 12:52 pm
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    None of this is about safety. It’s about control.

  • 2020-09-02 at 3:16 pm
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    There are a high proportion of nutters in this crowd. They gripe about people kneeling for the national anthem and then deface our flag with those “blue lives matters” flags. This isn’t about freedom….or you know what, maybe it is. Finally I will have the freedom to not be worried about getting shot by someone who’s carrying a lethal weapon and might be a bit nuts.

    • 2020-09-02 at 5:02 pm
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      You think that “gun free zones” make you safer?

      Have you seen the statistics?

    • 2020-09-03 at 1:28 pm
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      Unless someone has experienced being shot at by a person legally carrying a legally purchased firearm without just reason, not sure how much supporting a policy to make such a person into a criminal will alleviate the more likely scenario of someone being harmed by a person illegally carrying an illegally obtained lethal weapon.

      Phobia remedies are best left to care of medical professionals, not the progressive politicians.

      The fact is the reduction of legally carrying folks in the community will (invite) increase the likelihood of violence and reduce the likelihood someone nearby would be able to help one in need. A rational analysis should result in a increase in “worry” as gun control becomes more prevalent. If there is disagreement on this, it would be helpful to identify a city/county that has long standing and wide spread gun bans where one would be less “worried”, feel more safe, walking the streets and parks, day or night, as compared to doing same in Loudoun.

    • 2020-09-03 at 1:46 pm
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      Really? Exactly how does this ruling decrease the odds that you will get shot? Lunatic sees a paper sign on the door of the County Building and thinks….”wow, I better not go in there and commit mass murder….”

      • 2020-09-04 at 7:46 am
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        The gunnecks just can’t address one pesky fact- the more guns you keep around the greater the chance of you or someone you love being shot by a gun.

        • 2020-09-04 at 5:23 pm
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          Virginia has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the nation.
          Virginia has among the lowest violent crime rate in the nation.

          Care to try again?

  • 2020-09-02 at 3:40 pm
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    Loudoun supervisors 2020 mission statement: Find the most effective way to undermine Loudoun residents’ constitutional rights.

    I would suggest County Chair Phyllis J. Randall has again not thought this issue through when she claimed gun restrictions already exist in places such as the White House and U.S. Senate. Although this misunderstanding appears to be unintentional, but I would suggest this is a misrepresentation of her true intentions, as Mr. Manthos has pointed out. Theses restrictions exist so government officials at these locations don’t have to arm themselves, but enjoy government-paid armed service. Expanding this to community locations would be not only unfair, but unconstitutional to private citizens who have a right to arm themselves and do not have the luxury have 24/7 publicly paid armed security. My household appreciates our Loudoun Sheriffs office, but we know they can’t be everywhere at all places. The 2nd Amendment encourages self-reliance and self-responsibility. Isn’t that was Randall wants in our community? I doubt it.

  • 2020-09-02 at 4:45 pm
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    Symbolism over substance. Meaningless horse manure from our BOS and a few clueless Loudoun moms who all seem to believe that the criminals will honor a “No Firearms” sign outside the parks.

    Bravo to Buffington and Kershner for exercising common sense .

  • 2020-09-02 at 5:14 pm
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    Only in America do we have this nonsensical debate. All intelligent civilized nations realize allowing kids to walk anywhere with AR-15s is a recipe for disaster. Every year, annually, thousands of children are shot dead in firearm accidents and many thousands more seriously injured. A study conducted noted almost 2 million children live in households where firearms are accessible and unlocked.

    Yet the same lame arguments off the NRA crib sheet crop up each year..good guys with guns (saw one murder 2 people recently), woman raped in the streets, mobs overflowing the county, yadda yadda yadda.

    Look if you need to secure a professional meeting have trained professionals present as in deputies, not God knows what armed fool from wherever decides to attend in battle armor and a bandolier of bullets. I mean are they a terrorist, a mental subject, a lost hunter, a “good” guy with a gun or someone mad at the BOS? Who knows? Shall we inquire of their intentions at the door? This is insanity.

    If security is an issue, deal with it professionally not through amateurs. I have no issue with gun ownership for those that feel the need for self-protection at home or while out and about (just don’t shoot me by accident, I’ll OWN your home…if I live.) Hunting, target practice, all fun and great pastimes. But everyone wanting to be armed like GI Joe, entering public buildings where many people do not like guns, especially visibly bandied about, is simply wrong. Play cop and robber on your own turf. The public square is for everyone, and it is government’s job to secure it, not a kid with an automatic rifle.

    • 2020-09-02 at 7:13 pm
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      Since you seem to value emotion over substance, let me try to provide some assistance.

      “Gun free zones” are a proven failure. They have been host to some of this country’s worst mass shootings.

      “Kids” don’t have “automatic” rifles. Under age 18 are prohibited from possessing NFA items by Federal law. Most states prohibit the sale of semi-automatic weapons to those under 18. And possession is prohibited by many states.

      Every year one thousand children drown. Tragedies, each and every one of them, but we don’t ban pools, swimming holes and bathtubs. We don’t prohibit families from a week at the beach, either.

      Your talking point about “professionals” is straight out of the Mike Bloomberg handbook. Days after the private citizens stopped the church shooter in Texas earlier this year, he still insisted that guns shouldn’t be possessed by individuals outside of their homes. Many more lives would have been lost if not for their armed “good guys.”

      LCSO is a fine organization, but they cannot possible respond to most emergencies in the western half of this county in what any sane person would call a reasonable amount of time. And that includes parks.

      Evil will do what evil does. It’s up to us to either avoid running into it OR try to fend it off should it approach.

    • 2020-09-05 at 5:53 pm
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      Your posts seem to demonstrate you operate a sizable agricultural endeavor since they are all filled with the very same “straw man” arguments.

      The county is full of responsibly-armed citizens yet the public-space apocalypse you fear doesn’t happen. In fact, the last major incident in Virginia Beach was made worse because employees of the city could not defend themselves at work. Do you really think the shooter in Virginia Beach would have obeyed the “no guns” sign? If so, you need to stack that straw a bit higher because reality is threatening to intrude.

      There aren’t enough police in Loudoun County to “secure” all public buildings and spaces. In the recent horrid accident in Goose Creek it took longer than 30 minutes for first responders to arrive. Do you really want to wait that long when your safety is at risk?

      The public square belongs to all residents. And my RIGHTS don’t vanish because you are afraid of inanimate objects. Your exaggerated fears don’t negate my rights. You’re going to need a lot more straw to cover up the gaping holes in these arguments.

  • 2020-09-02 at 5:50 pm
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    Juli E. Briskman shame on you for the comparison of the drowning of Fritz Thomas and the failure of the 911 response system is ridiculous. But your not the brightest candle in the candle shop. In fact, your candel has not wick. Except wickness!

    Signs are posted along Goose Creek. No Trespassing also means No Swimming. Don’t blame our fine men and women of our Loudoun County Sheriff and Fire Departments. No Guns Allowed signs will not stop CRIMINALS! Did Fritz and others have a permit to swim in Goose Creek? NO! Criminals don’t seek permits to buy or use guns legally!!!

    Citizens have constitutional rights to open carry and/or legal permit to conceal carry. Cancel Culture trying to redefine AMERICA! I have a right to protect myself, my family, my property and the Right to Bear Arms….2ND AMENDMENT!!! Hey Juli see my finger?! It’s not a peace sign either. MOLON LABE!

  • 2020-09-02 at 7:35 pm
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    This outcome was a foregone conclusion. The only real question was whether certain a certain supervisor would find his spine at some point during the meeting. The vote tally indicates that search yet continues.

    As far as I can tell, there has not been a shooting in a Loudoun County public building ever. But people have been recently assaulted in parks and rec centers. And the county board has just declared open season on people there.

    This isn’t about safety. Cops have no duty to protect you. You have the right and responsibility to self-defense. And a government that strips you of that right is tyrannical.

    One ignorant woman in a “Moms” shirt demonstrated her ignorance of the role of government. She thinks government must implement the will of the majority regardless of other factors. The proper role of government is implement the will of the majority as long as it does not infringe the rights of the minority.

    Congratulations to Randall and Briskman and the rest of the board. They have now extended the middle finger to the whole population of Loudoun County. Next comes defunding the police. They have already started massive releases of felons in Virginia. What could possibly go wrong when you disarm responsible citizens?

  • 2020-09-03 at 1:15 am
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    Every mass shooting in Virginia occurred in a “gun free zone.” So, our DEM members of the BoS vote to create more of them. Dumb and dangerous. The Virginia beach shooter went through his public building slowly and methodically killing unarmed victims, who were denied the ability to defend themselves by DEMs. Rename them “killing zones.” That’s what they are.

  • 2020-09-03 at 11:39 am
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    What percentage of government center attendees end up being shot by their neighbors with legally owned firearms in the average year? Assuming Kristen C. Umstattd statement is true, what is the real objective source of that fear of attending the government center? Also, why do they only fear their legally armed neighbors in government center during *nights*?

    There is no general community fear and worry exhibited by Loudoun County residents in moving about its parks and government buildings. There is no data to support such a problem exists or that, if one did, would be solved by this. What city or county has already long established all gun control policies that the BOS democrats would like to eventually implemented? Is there such a place Phyllis J. Randall and the BOS democrats can point us to where people walk streets and parks with a feeling of more peace and safety than one can do in Loudoun? What is their example shinning city on a hill of peace, love and safety?

    The democrats are really prepping for the law enforcement power grab. If the democrat BOS power grab is successful in making law enforcement in loudoun report to the BOS, harassing gun owners will be made a top police priority (and stopping and solving crime cases will become less so).

    As it is well known in our country, violent thugs riot, loot, burn, and kill under pretense of protests in democrat controlled communities, and democrats react to that violence by calling off and defunding the police. Why are not democrats in those cities embolden and driven to action to address real fears and worries of people living in those communities affected daily by riot violence, instead of the non-existent fears and worries they claim to be boldly addressing here in peaceful and prosperous Loudoun County?

    Why trust these democrats with what is best for the safety of Loudoun? What makes these democrats different than democrats that are letting there cities burn and be terrorized?

    • 2020-09-04 at 1:40 pm
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      We will vote them out.
      Laws good enough for the first amendment are good enough for the second.

      Otherwise, put a sign up that “Constitutional rights stop at this line.”

      This from the same people that feel it is appropriate to use tax funded services like a library building for county employee daycare.

      Wake up people!

  • 2020-09-06 at 12:48 pm
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    Lets see, Concealed carry holders are historically more law abiding than off duty cops! Public perception of crime and criminal gun use is at odds with data due to Ignorance, intentional Media/Politician and Bloomberg’s Political Action /Lobby Group Moms Demand Action fear mongering despite evidence to the contrary.

    Their political wishes and emotion’s do not trump the constitution. Most gun violence in US is criminal on criminal in poor inner cities. Yet Dems seem to blindly follow a vocal minority even when it clearly violates constitutional rights, which are divined by god, inalienable, which means no man or woman can undermine.

    Funny somehow the 2A scares them (and rightly so, for an armed citizen fears no other with a weapon) but they are all about other rights, letting criminals go free, letting rioters destroy cities for 1st amendment rights, Voting rights, and other amendments of note. News Flash, they are ALL important, one cannot single one out as more or less worthy of defending or attacking, unless you are a socialist puppet of the communist’s trying to undermine this nations core values and principles.

    Democrats are pathologically obsessed with Gun Control, (and have been since the post civil war Jim Crow era) in spite of the factual data that conclusively shows that there is no gun violence epidemic, let alone a crime epidemic compared to population counts, and that law abiding citizens are NOT the ones committing crimes. Almost all the democratic gun control measures focus on law abiding citizens exercising their constitutional rights. Very few are focused on the criminal use of firearms by criminals on other criminals, who by definition, do NOT follow the law!

    What do the US Govt facts indicate? Guess Guns don’t murder as many as they say after all:
    ATF 2019: 425,000,000 Guns in US
    CDC 2018 stats:
    330,000,000 people
    2,813,503 Deaths (0.852%)
    19,510 Murders (0.0059% )
    14,542 Murder by gun (0.0044%)

    What do Virginia’s State Police say? Virginia 2018 VSP Crime Report:
    8,500,000 population in VA.
    68,000 deaths, that is 0.5882% of total VA population
    382 Murders, that is 0.0044% of total VA population
    282 murders using guns, that is 0.0033% of total population
    8,432,000 Virginians lived to see 2019
    8,499,718 were not murdered by guns and you had a 99.9966% of NOT being killed by a gun.

    Even Chicago not bad:

    2018 Chicago
    2,705,000 People
    565 Murders (0.020%)
    2018 Chicago Murder victims/suspects:
    Black 79.89%, Hispanic 13.70%,
    White 5.69%, 80% of victims and 92% of offenders had criminal records.

  • 2020-11-19 at 6:01 pm
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    I Know gun free zones make me safer. Just read this comment made by a gun toter outside the County Building Tuesday, “We will hold accountable, with your help, any one of the supervisors who vote to create mass killing zones,” Anders said. “We will hunt them down in the next election, and regardless of party affiliation, we the people will take back Virginia, Loudoun County and our God-given liberty.”

    Hunt them down – If that is not a threat I do not what else you would call it.

  • 2020-11-20 at 11:28 am
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    If the county wishes to ban guns inside its buildings, D.C. v. Heller recognizes their power to do so. However, in order for it to be constitutional, they must have effective screening at all public entrances and provide secure storage onsite for those with valid carry permits to insure visitors have the ability to protect themselves to/from the facility.

    People don’t visit government buildings unless they have to. It isn’t like private businesses, where people are exercising volition to enter the property and can patronize a different business instead.

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