On Saturday last, VCDL held a picnic in Green Hill Park in Salem, VA. The event, billed as the “Oh yes we can!” picnic garnered quite a bit of media attention.
The picnic, which was attended by over 150 people despite the at-times torrential rain, was held to protest a badly worded Roanoke County ordinance concerning guns in parks.
The ordinance which I wrote about when it was first brought to my attention by well known gun rights activists Ed Levine and Brian Reynolds is the most convoluted ordinance I have ever read, including I might add those we studied as examples of bad drafting in my Legislation Drafting course in law school.
In purporting to comply with the state preemption statute which strips localities of the power to regulate the possession and transportation of firearms, the ordinance says (emphasis added by me to illustrate how misleading the ordinance is):
Sec. 15-8. – Prohibited uses of parks.
(6) … No person shall within a park use, carry or possess firearms, ammunition or combinations thereof, as expressly prohibited by statute, or air rifles, spring guns, pellet guns, paintball guns, bow and arrows, slings or any other forms of weapons potentially dangerous to wildlife and to human safety … The director may permit authorization for the use of a firearm or other potentially dangerous instrument, to be used in a park for a special event or county managed activity.
Despite the fact that even licensed attorneys find the wording strained beyond belief, Roanoke County Attorney Paul Mahoney reportedly told The Roanoke Times that “It’s like some folks can’t take yes for an answer.” Well Paul … looking at the ordinance above, I think what you meant to say was “It’s like some people can’t take ‘no, absolutely not, as expressly prohibited by statute’ for an answer.”
Let’s just get this out on the table. J’accuse! I personally believe that the ordinance was crafted in such a way in order to chill the rights of gun owners by causing the average layman to believe that carry is prohibited in parks. And based upon the feedback and questions we have received from citizens, it seems to be working.
VCDL will continue pursuing the issue as calls for a legal challenge mount but the picnic was a great start. Media coverage by WDBJ 7 made sure that many southwestern Virginia citizens who didn’t get to attend learned that parks are open for gun owners.
Reporter Bryce Williams wanted to go live from the picnic but was prevented by the inclement weather so he had to rush back to the studio to edit his footage for the 6:00 news and unfortunately for fans could not stay to have a hamburger with the crowd.
Other Roanoke media stars were also in attendance. Roanoke Times blogger Dan Casey, known for being a strident anti-gun voice was invited and attended with his son Zach. He has since written his own article on the picnic.
While we all disagree with Dan on this point of public policy, we were glad he came out and had some food with us. As VCDL board member and Roanoke Valley resident Al Steed, Jr. noted, Dan does good work for many people in need and we should remember and appreciate that even as we disagree about gun rights.
In closing I want to say that It was great to see so many old friends and to meet new members.