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.
I had a great time at the picnic and got to meet some new folks face to face finally. I’m sorry I didn’t run into you.
Hopefully we’ll meet next time.
Yes. James told me you were coming but we never ran into each other. 🙂 We will definitely catch up at the next event. Are you going to Hillsville?
Hillsville is the gun show?
What are the dates?
“Calls for a legal challenge…”
I still don’t understand why this ordinance is still on the books. It appears to be a clear violation of 15.2-915. Roanoke County is literally thumbing their nose at the General Assembly with these shenanigans.
I don’t think it is a violation of pre-emption as it doesn’t apply any additional restrictions than the state law.
What I think the problem is is the “chilling” effect that it has based on the wording in the ordinance. No more, no less.
Please re-read the section. It does not say that a locality may impose an ordinance as long as it does not conflict with state law. It says a locality may NOT impose ANY ordinance, unless that ordinance is expressly permitted by the Code of Virginia.
Show me where in the Code of Virginia localities are allowed to regulate the carry of firearms in parks, other than in the context of a hunter, carrying a firearm incident to hunting.
Most definitely agree – must be specifically authorized or it is in violation. We need teeth/penalty for those that do not honor this mandate.
BTW – they may restrict discharge of firearms other than for defensive uses.
Thinking about it that way, you’re right.
Was very good to see Dan Casey at the picnic and appreciated his candid editorial on VCDL, the picnic and our position. Maybe our facts and direct honesty are having the desired effect – do you think?
We have fought harder battles than this before…….and won. The question is do they want to do it the easy way or the hard way. The choice is there’s. Hope that wisdom will prevail.
The hard way is the only way, apparently. I have sent numerous emails to Paul Mahoney trying to understand his position on this matter and even emailed him over the weekend to try to clarify his statement to WSLS that they used during their report.
My emails continue to go into the ether, apparently. It seems that if we actually want to do anything more than educate the public, it will probably have to be done in a courtroom.
I must commend you guys on doing this protest the correct way.
The lone-wolf tactics of one or two people exercising their rights and getting hammered by the cops, simply because the cops can apply overwhelming force, is getting us no where and resulting in those of us who a willing to challenge unlawful rules to be steamrolled.
This event was the proper way to challenge.
Thanks Bob! 🙂