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Monday, June 6, 2011

Fairfax County Frets Over New Air Rifle Rules Taking Affect July 1

The Washington Examiner has this article today where Fairfax County Officials are "concerned" about a new law related to airguns. The bill, SB 757 which passed the General Assembly this session and was signed by the Governor on April 6, addresses the issue of localities restricting the discharge of "pneumatic" guns or airguns. Airgun ranges can be set up safely inside as well as outside. When setting up ranges outside in suburban back yards, they can be set up in such a way as to all but eliminate the chance of BBs and pellets leaving the property from which they are being shot. Nonetheless, boards of supervisors, town, and city councils, enact restrictions requiring large distances between homes or buildings before airguns can be discharged. Now, if you can safely set up an airgun range in a garage or basement, why shouldn't a land owner be able to do the same outside?

But that fact is lost on people like Fairfax County State Senator Dave Marsden:
"For our area, it is insane," said state Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax. "It's one thing to do this in any rural area, but to allow it in a suburban or urban area like much of Northern Virginia?"
As well as a member of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors:
"I don't think this will be well received," said Supervisor John Foust, D-Dranesville. "Our houses are much closer together, and our communities are much more dense than in much of the state. Neighbors would be justifiably concerned if someone is shooting weapons next door to them."
Here is new language (italicized) of the law that passed this year:
A. A locality may prohibit, by ordinance, the shooting of pneumatic guns in any areas of the locality that are in the opinion of the governing body so heavily populated as to make such conduct dangerous to the inhabitants thereof, and may require supervision by a parent, guardian, or other adult supervisor approved by a parent or guardian of any minor below the age of 16 in all uses of pneumatic guns on private or public property. The ordinance may specify that minors above the age of 16 may, with the written consent of a parent or guardian, use a pneumatic gun at any place designated for such use by the local governing body or on private property with the consent of the owner. The ordinance may specify that any minor, whether permitted by a parent or guardian to use a pneumatic gun or not, shall be responsible for obeying all laws, regulations and restrictions governing such use. Any penalty for a pneumatic gun offense set forth in such an ordinance shall not exceed a Class 3 misdemeanor.
B. No such ordinance authorized by subsection A shall prohibit the use of pneumatic guns at facilities approved for shooting ranges or, on other property where firearms may be discharged, or on or within private property with permission of the owner or legal possessor thereof when conducted with reasonable care to prevent a projectile from crossing the bounds of the property.
If someone shooting an airgun does not use "reasonable care" when shooting, Fairfax still has the same remedies to deal with the unsafe practice they have currently. So, one has to ask, why all the fuss?

Update: I spoke with NRANews' Cam Edwards about this on Monday's program.

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