The Virginia Citizen Defense League, whose members are well-known for their aggressive lobbying on behalf of the right to carry firearms almost anywhere in the Commonwealth, showed up Tuesday at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting to make their case for the right to keep and bear BB guns.
With their round, fluorescent orange “Guns Save Lives stickers a-blazin’, VCDL president Philip Van Cleave and about a dozen other members spoke in favor of a new state law that bars local jurisdictions, such as Fairfax, from prohibiting people from shooting pneumatic guns on private property as long as the shooting is done safely. The new law becomes effective July 1.
(They were also on alert for crybabies, at least according to the summons issued by Van Cleave in advance of the meeting:
“We need to be at this hearing in numbers to express our SUPPORT for the new law, so Fairfax can’t go crying to the General Assembly about how most people they heard from hated this new law,” Van Cleave said in an alert to VCDL members Monday.)
Until now, the county restricted BB guns to more open areas of the county and required their owners to register them with police. But the new state law, sponsored by Sen. Roscoe Reynolds (R-Martinsville), trumps local ordinances.
So after lengthy debate, the board, as expected, voted to align its county code with the state law, although its members did not seem happy about it. At the urging of Supervisor Jeffrey C. McKay (D-Lee), the board did retain a provision in the local code that would allow the county to forbid people from bringing BB guns or pellet guns to schools.
“We believe this is an excellent law for a lot of good reasons, and should be embraced,” Van Cleave told the board. “It’s got a good balance of freedom versus responsibility.”
Thomas Pike, of Centreville, who represented the NOVA Sharpshooters’ junior rifle club, listed several young people whose prowess with air rifles won them college scholarships. (He also mentioned that athletic directors love rifle team kids because they also tend to be good students who raise the overall GPA average of student athletes.)
In his testimony, Van Cleave also allowed a peek at his childhood, saying he grew up toting a BB gun in Chicago.
“It’s a very American way of doing things, and it’s a lot of fun,” Van Cleave said.
Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) expressed amazement that Van Cleave fired BB guns in Chicago. He expressed more amazement that Van Cleave fired BB’s in his house.
“You fired BB guns inside the home?” Hyland asked.
“You bet,” Van Cleave replied.