Loudoun supervisors late Tuesday night adopted a new ordinance banning guns in county buildings, offices and parks, directing the staff to set up screening stations at the Government Center and Shenandoah Building in Leesburg, and the Sterling Service Center on Ridgetop Circle.
The new ordinance also provides exemptions for concealed carry permit holders visiting county parks, as well for private security personnel hired for a county-permitted event, active duty military personnel performing their official duties, historical reenactments and others. It passed on a party line vote, 6-3.
The vote also came after attempts to push the law in both directions—both tightening it by doing without the exception for concealed carry permits, and, with it clear that some sort of ordinance would pass, loosening it by only applying it to buildings with screening stations.
Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) led the push for the tighter rules, which failed on a 4-5 vote. She was joined by Vice Chairman Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) and Supervisors Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn) and Sylvia R. Glass (D-Broad Run).
“We accepted the support of the gun safety advocacy groups and the voters put us here because they want us to enact such legislation,” Briskman said. “When given the authority, these constituents want to be able to attend public meetings, pay their taxes, file their county paperwork vote and visit our public parks, rec centers and libraries without the presence of firearms, and they certainly don’t want a concealed carry permit holder there with a gun who is neither trained nor experienced in firearms use or safety.”
Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner’s (R-Catoctin) proposal to only apply that rule to buildings with screening stations failed on a party line 3-6 vote.
“I still don’t agree with that, but I think that is a huge step to making up for what you’re taking from folks, a fundamental right under our Constitution,” Kershner said.
“I’ll support the motion, because if you’re going to take away somebody’s ability to lawfully carry within the building, you’ve got to provide a way to keep them safe,” said Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge).
County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) put forth the version of the ordinance that passed.
“You don’t wait for the thing to happen. You do something in advance of it happening,” Randall said. “The moment someone comes in here and starts shooting—we’ve done a lot of things after the fact, but that’s after the fact. So I’ll go back to saying what I said before: I think this is common sense.”
“I keep hearing, you know, Loudoun is safest place to live. But it seems like a lot of people obviously don’t think that it’s the safest place to live, if you have to have a gun with you everywhere you go,” Glass said. “You know, it sounds like that person that’s carrying their weapon everywhere they go, they’re the one that’s fearful, they’re the one that’s afraid.”
I just want to point out at a macro level, we’re not debating the literature of gun violence and all of the issues that go into that here,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “We’re debating a county ordinance, and we’re deciding what’s practical and makes sense for us to enforce as a locality.”
The debate has been a long and controversial one, with dozens of people showing up to Board of Supervisors meetings to argue for or against new gun restrictions. That included Tuesday night, when the signups for public input sessions spilled over into a waitlist, with most coming to speak on the gun ordinance.
This article was updated March 3 at 3:29 p.m. to correct a quote.