The Washington Post

Fairfax backs down on BB guns, passes ordinance in line with General Assembly

Backing down from a possible clash with the Virginia General Assembly over a new state law, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to relax local prohibitions on BB guns, giving up an attempt to at least continue restrictions on pneumatic weapons on parkland and school property.

The new state law, sponsored by a senator from Martinsville, bars Fairfax and other local jurisdictions from prohibiting people from firing pneumatic guns on private property.

Until now, the county restricted BB guns to more open areas of the county and required their owners to register them with police. A new state law, however, allows people to fire pneumatic weapons on private property with the owner’s permission so long as reasonable care is taken to make sure the projectiles do not leave the premises. The new law became effective July 1.

Virginia being a commonwealth guided by the Dillon Rule, which jealously guards the state government’s preeminence over local authority, the board has always recognized that they had little choice but to go along with the new state law. But Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee) and others balked at letting people traipse across parks and school properties with BB guns.

So, at its June 21 regular meeting, the board reluctantly agreed to amend the county ordinance regulating BB guns but to keep intact part of the code that prohibits people from traversing parkland and school premises with pneumatic weapons. But after conferring with the county attorney, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday recognized that that provision must go, too.

Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) reiterated Tuesday that he would like to send the county’s delegation of lawmakers to Richmond at its next annual session to find a way to give some control back to the county on regulating pneumatic weapons.

Fredrick Kunkle runs the Tripping blog, writing about the experience of travel. Freddy's also covered politics, courts, police, and local government. Before coming to The Washington Post, he worked for the Star-Ledger and The Bergen Record.

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