Similar gun ban signage in Fairfax County (Photo courtesy of Town of Herndon/handout)

The Herndon Town Council is considering a plan to double down on banning guns on town property.

If approved, the ban would restrict the possession, use, and transportation of any firearms on specified town-owned property, including parks and community centers. It would also apply to any public street, sidewalk, right-of-way, or public place specifically being used for an official town-sponsored event.

Some residents fired off on a similar ban in Fairfax County, which was passed nearly one year ago. Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church and other neighboring jurisdictions also have similar ordinances.

As drafted, all violations would be classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor. The ordinance does not apply to sworn or retired law enforcement officers, military personnel who are conducting official duties, historical re-enactors, private security hired by the town, and individuals who have a concealed handgun allowed through a valid concealed handgun permit.

Gov. Ralph Northam signed enabling legislation in April 2020 that allows local governments to ban guns on public property and public spaces. The move followed a gun rally in Richmond where thousands of gun owners gathered for a rally aimed to eliminate gun restrictions.

Town officials are wrestling with the best way to enforce the ban — if passed. Officials noted that the ban is only meaningful if it is enforceable in a consistent and effective manner.

An impact analysis by the town anticipates nearly $3 million in costs to amp up security in town buildings, install signs at town parks and trails and install magnetometers. An additional $744,600 is anticipated to staff magnetometers.

“If the goal of the firearms prohibition is to protect council, staff and the public from a firearms discharge on town property, then steps would be required to ensure security,” the impact analysis notes.

A public meeting is planned for today. The public hearing begins at 7 p.m. in the Herndon Council Chambers, which are located at 765 Lynn Street. Masks are required for all attendees and entrance to the council’s chambers will be controlled in order to ensure social distancing, according to town officials.

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Morning Notes

Woman paddleboards with her dog on Lake Anne (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Lit Candles Start Fire in Herndon Storage Unit — Three Public Storage units sustained fire and smoke damage after unattended, lit candles placed too close to combustibles fueled a blaze on Friday (Aug. 20). Fairfax County and Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority units responded to the 2900 block of Centreville Road around 2:11 p.m. The fire resulted in approximately $165,000 in damages but no injuries or displacements. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]

Herndon Man Tries to Bring Loaded Gun on Plane — A man from Herndon will be fined after Transportation Security Administration agents prevented him from bringing a loaded handgun onto a flight at Dulles International Airport. Officials said it was the 10th handgun seized at the airport so far this year after 19 such incidents in 2019. [The Washington Post]

County Police Dog Dies from Cancer — Fairfax County Police Department K9 Silas died of cancer on Saturday (Aug. 21), the department said yesterday (Monday) in a Facebook post. Joining the FCPD as a puppy in 2013 with his brother Bolt, Silas was diagnosed last fall and began receiving radiation and chemotherapy treatments. He responded well, living beyond expectations and continuing to help police track down critically missing people. [Patch]

RA Urges Continued Caution Around Lake Algae — An algae bloom that emerged at Lake Audubon in July was determined to be not harmful, but Reston Association says residents should remain cautious in their use of the lake until little to no algal colonies are present. More information about how to help prevent future blooms can be found through the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District. [RA/YouTube]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) Herndon Police officers are investigating reports that gun shots were fired in the 900 block of Alabama Drive, the department says.

According to the Herndon Police Department, the incident involves a dark gray Dodge SUV, possibly the Journey model, with “scraping along rear passenger door.”

Police are advising the public to stay away from the area. No ambulance or medical services have been requested so far, the department tells Reston Now.

Anyone who might have information about the incident can contact 703-435-6846.

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Morning Notes

Gun Discharged in Torrey Pines Court — Employees of a building in the 1700 block of Torrey Pines Court discovered bullet holes around 1:18 a.m. on June 17. Fairfax County police officers who arrived at the scene found cartridge cases nearby, but no injuries were reported. [FCPD]

Judge Considers Dismissing Charges in Taser Case — A circuit court judge is considering dismissing charges of brutality against a Fairfax County police officer who faces three misdemeanor counts for punching and using a Taser on a Black man in the Mount Vernon area in June 2020. The judge criticized the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney on Friday (June 25) for making statements that seemed misleading and failing to disclose evidence to the defense. [The Washington Post]

Tephra Institute Hiring — The Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art, formerly the Greater Reston Arts Center, is hiring an education and public programs manager who will be responsible for planning and implementing programs, including family activities for the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival. The institute is also seeking interns to assist with its Summer Art Camp. [Tephra ICA]

In-Person Dating Returns to D.C. Area — “With 70% of people in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia at least partially vaccinated and all remaining pandemic restrictions now lifted, in-person dating is picking back up in the D.C. region. But the dating landscape has changed dramatically since March 2020 — as have people’s expectations of what dating should look like.” [DCist]

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Morning Notes

Van Gogh bridge at Lake Anne (photo via vantagehill/Flickr)

Gun Discharged in Reston — According to Fairfax County police, a homeowner in the 1700 block of Torrey Pines Court reported hearing gunshots around 2:49 a.m. on Thursday (June 10). The individual found damage to a car and property, but no injuries were reported. Officers located cartridge casings nearby. [FCPD]

Teen Injured in Herndon Car Crash — A 14-year-old boy was hit by an SUV at the intersection of Centreville Road and Parcher Avenue in Herndon on Friday (June 11). The boy was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, police said. [FCPD/Twitter]

County Health Department Took on New Roles during Pandemic — The Fairfax County Health Department ceased in-person inspections of food establishments, pivoting instead to a virtual process intended “to minimize possible COVID transmission between Health Department staff and restaurant employees.” Other staff in the food safety program shifted responsibilities, such as working call centers or supporting vaccination clinics. [Fairfax County Times]

How Northern Virginia Is Spending COVID-19 Relief Funds — “Fairfax County, Virginia’s most populous jurisdiction, expects to receive $200 million of Rescue Plan funds over the next two years, officials there said. So far, $50 million of that has been dedicated to specific uses: to help the hard-hit hospitality industry and, over the longer term, to preserve and create more affordable housing in the county, officials said.” [The Washington Post]

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The Town of Herndon is moving ahead with plans to explore a potential ordinance that would prohibit firearms on town property.

During a work session on Tuesday (June 1), the town council agreed to schedule a pair of public hearings on Sept. 14 and 28 to discuss the proposal.

The September dates were chosen after council members decided it would draw more participants compared to the summer, when many residents might be away on vacation.

Councilmember Signe Friedrichs said that holding two public hearings would encourage a more thoughtful discussion on the subject.

“I would really like people to think through more than just saying, ‘Well, it’s an ordinance and it’s opposed to guns, and therefore I want to pass it, ‘ as opposed to ‘It’s an ordinance and it’s damaging my right to carry my weapon, so I’m against it,'” she said.

The ordinance was first brought to council for general discussion on Sept. 15, 2020 and subsequently returned for further review on April 6. The council deferred action on April 13 to allow for additional consideration of the fiscal impacts of adopting a gun ordinance.

Lesa Yeatts, the Herndon town attorney, advised the council that “it would be prudent” to start additional discussions about the ordinance as it existed in April.

The currently proposed ordinance stems from Virginia’s adopted legislation that allows localities to institute ordinances prohibiting firearms on their public property.

If passed as currently written, the ordinance would prohibit the “possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof” on town property. There would be a few exceptions for law enforcement personnel and educational activities, such as historical reenactments.

“Will this solve and prevent everything? No. But it’s a step to a more secure town in terms of our facilities, in terms of our parks, and just the community in general,” Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila said.

The council agreed to move forward with the discussion of the ordinance, but since the existing language largely replicates the ban passed by Fairfax County, they expressed a desire to get a clearer understanding of the legal implications and how much room there would be for tweaks based on feedback from the public hearings.

“I think when we just flatly say that ‘I’m for guns’ or ‘I’m against guns,’ then we’re missing something important, which is nuance,” Friedrichs said.

Photo via Thomas Def/Unsplash

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The Herndon Town Council is currently considering an ordinance that would largely ban firearms on town property.

Specifically, the proposed measure would “prohibit the possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof on Town property,” including public parks, community centers, and public streets during permitted events.

The ordinance includes some exceptions for law enforcement, security, and active-duty military personnel who are engaged in official duties. Unloaded firearms could also be allowed for educational activities or displays.

If adopted, the ordinance would bring Herndon in line with most other Northern Virginia jurisdictions, including Fairfax and Arlington counties and the cities of Falls Church and Alexandria.

However, Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem announced on Tuesday (April 13) that a decision on the ordinance has been deferred until the town can hold a public hearing on the issue and staff can provide more information on the potential fiscal impacts of a ban.

Herndon Town Attorney Lesa Yeatts wrote in a staff report that possible budgetary considerations could include the costs of posting and removing signage required by Virginia law and enhancements to security measures like guards and metal detectors.

Town Manager Bill Ashton is not scheduled to report back to the town council until May 6, but in the meantime, what do you think of the proposal? Should people be allowed to have guns on town property?

Photo via Jeremy Alford/Unsplash

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The Herndon Town Council has deferred action on an ordinance that would prohibit firearms on town property.

Mayor Sheila Olem announced Tuesday (April 13) at the council’s meeting that it will hold off on any action with the firearm ordinance until Town Manager Bill Ashton can come back with additional information on the subject.

Olem added the council would also like to hold an advertised public hearing on the matter so it “can gather input from our residents.”

“Following last week’s work session discussion on the item, the council’s consensus was that we should give the town manager time to analyze the budgetary impacts of this,” Olem said.

Ashton will return to the council on May 6 to present his findings during a strategic planning session.

The proposed ordinance follows initial discussions the council had in September after Virginia adopted legislation allowing localities to institute ordinances to prohibit firearms on their public property.

Herndon’s proposed ordinance falls in line with similar ordinances that have been adopted in Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington counties, as well as in cities including Falls Church and Alexandria.

The ordinance, if passed, would prohibit the “possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof” on town property.

The town property listed in Herndon’s proposed ordinance includes any building used or owned by the town, or any authority or local government entity controlled by the town for governmental purposes. The ordinance extends to public parks and recreation or community centers owned or operated by the town.

The ordinance would not to apply military personnel when acting within their official capacity, sworn or retired law enforcement officers, on duty private security hired by the town, and for educational programs or historical reenactments conducted or permitted by the town and wherein the firearms used are not loaded.

A violation of this ordinance would constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Photo via Thomas Def/Unsplash

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The Herndon Town Council is considering adopting a new law that would prohibit the possession of firearms and ammunition on town property.

At its work session tomorrow (April 6), the town council will discuss creating a law that would prohibit “the possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof on Town property, in Town buildings or on certain other areas owned by the Town.”

As noted in a staff report, council members will have three potential outcomes to vote on at next week’s meeting on April 13, a town spokesperson confirms.

The council could vote to adopt the ordinance as written, defer consideration until budgetary impacts are determined, or advertise a public hearing to get public input.

This is the second time that the council has discussed a firearms ban as part of a work session after an initial conversation took place in September in response to Virginia General Assembly legislation that took effect last summer.

The state bill permitted localities to adopt their own ordinances prohibiting firearms in public facilities.

Herndon is a bit behind other local jurisdictions in considering a ban.

Arlington County and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church have already instituted a ban on firearms on locality-owned property, including courthouses, public parks, and community centers, and at public events. Fairfax County also adopted a similar ordinance for all county-owned spaces in September.

The staff report notes that Herndon’s ordinance is similar to the county’s, but “tailored to Herndon.”

The proposed ordinance calls for “increased security measures” like metal detectors to prevent access to these areas while possessing a firearm. It also mandates that a written notice about the ordinance be posted at entrances to the areas where the prohibition is in effect.

The staff report says that, so far, there has been no opportunity to determine the fiscal impacts of the law, including installation of metal detectors and posting signage.

The ordinance would have some exemptions. For instance, law enforcement, security personnel hired by the town or the state, active duty military personnel would be allowed to have firearms on public property, and educational activities like static displays and historical reenactments would be permitted.

The ordinance could also potentially allow for lawfully possessed firearms stored in a locked, private motor vehicle that is lawfully parked on town property or a public street.

A violation of the ordinance would be punishable as a class one misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Back in September, nearly all of Herndon’s councilmembers reached a consensus that more public input was needed, along with further research into how the ban was being enacted in neighboring localities.

Several councilmembers noted that a ban on firearms on town-owned property would need to clearly communicate that all guns are not going to be confiscated individual owners. Councilmembers also raised concerns about whether the ban would hold up legally, considering that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of individual gun owners in the past.

However, more recently, the Supreme Court has declined to rule on such cases.

Photo via Thomas Def/Unsplash

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The Fairfax County Police Department is investigating two reckless discharge incidents that took place on Nov. 14.

According to the department’s weekly crime report, someone driving a car on the 2000 block of Soapstone Drive fired a gun several times before leaving the area around 10:17 p.m.

In a separate incident, FCPD also investigated reports of a shooting on the parking lot of the Village Center at Dulles. Police believe a man fired a gun and left the area in a car.

Shell casings were discovered at the scene of both incidents. No injuries or property damage were reported.

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After hours of passionate public input at their meeting Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passed a ban on carrying guns on county property.

The Board of Supervisors passed the ordinance 8-1, immediately taking effect and applying to County buildings, parks, recreation and community centers.

The state law that let Fairfax County ban guns on public property, is something that Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said the county has been asking for decades. Similar bans were implemented in Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church.

“There is also a lot of fear in this community about guns,” McKay said. “So while gun rights advocates are concerned for their own safety, you have to understand there [are] a ton of people in this county worried about guns — period.”

In April, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a new gun control law enabling local governments to ban guns on public property and spaces. The bill followed a charged legislative session in Richmond, where armed pro-gun protesters showed up to the state capital as the legislature was considering proposed gun control measures.

One of the drivers of the ban on guns on public property was a 2019 shooting in Virginia Beach, where a gunman killed 12 people at a municipal building.

Before the vote, many speakers at the public hearing testified about the fear they have about guns and how state and local officials need to enact strong gun control measures to prevent a similar mass shooting from happening in Fairfax County.

Martina Leinz, president of the Northern Virginia chapter of Brady United Against Gun Violence, urged the Board of Supervisors to pass the ordnance saying there is a history of armed protesters showing up at gun control events on public spaces in Fairfax County, which she said was a form of intimidation.

“These should all be safe spaces that allow for the free and open exchange of speech and ideas without threat or intimidation by those carrying firearms,” Leinz said.

Pat Herrity, the lone Republican on the Board of Supervisors and the lone vote against the ordinance, spoke for the many pro-gun residents who testified at Tuesday’s public hearing, saying that ordinance was about politics not about public safety.

“I don’t believe a ban on guns makes Fairfax County public places or our citizens any safer and for me, that’s the benchmark,” Herrity said.

The Board of Supervisors immediately voted on the ordinance after over five hours of public testimony on the bill, to Herrity’s dismay, who said the board should have waited to vote, so it could take the ordinance up in committee to review public comments before passing it.

Additionally, the ordinance will require county buildings to post signs at entrances alerting people of the ban on guns and ammunition in public spaces, something that some pro-gun advocates pointed out could be irrelevant to any potential criminal.

“Do we really think a mass shooter is going to turn around when they see a ‘no guns allowed’ sign,” Grant Kendall, who testified against the ordinance, said. “Will criminals, already committed to doing much worse be deterred? No, of course not and it’s ridiculous to think so.”

The ordinance has exemptions for those in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, those participating in collegiate sporting events, police officers or educational county programs. The ordinance will also exempt the Bull Run Shooting Center, a public gun range in Centreville.

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering a weapons ban in county buildings, parks, recreation and community centers next week.

The proposal would ban the possession, carrying and transportation of firearms and ammunition in county areas, as well as permitted events and areas next to permitted events.

The plan follows the Virginia General Assembly’s passage of a bill that allows local regulation of firearms in certain areas. Gov. Ralph Northam approved the enabling legislation on April 22.

Here’s more on what the prohibition entails:

The proposed amendments exercise this new enabling authority in its entirety. Firearms, ammunition, components or combination thereof would be prohibited in buildings, parks, recreation and community centers owned or used by the County or authorities and entities created or controlled by the County such as the Fairfax County Park Authority. The prohibition would also be in effect at permitted events, events that would otherwise require a permit, and areas adjacent to those events, provided those events take place on a public street, road, alley, or sidewalk or public right-of-way or any other place of whatever nature that is open to the public. Appropriate signage must be posted in order to enforce the prohibition.
For now, it is unclear if the plan would ramp up security at county facilities, including security guards and metal detectors.

County staff is currently determining costs associated with signage requirements.

The board is expected to meet at noon on Tuesday, Sept. 15 to vote on the issue.

Photo via Jeremy Alford/Unsplash

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Like other gun stores around the country, a local gun store owner says that there’s an uptick in firearm sales.

An owner of Herndon Arms said that shortly after opening this morning, the store was busier than normal.

He added that there isn’t a specific type of firearm or weapon that has been selling more than the rest and that he wasn’t able to give any statistics or data.

Around the country, Time reported that people are fearful of the public panic that comes with rumors of empty grocery stores but public officials are reassuring everyone that there is not a food shortage around the United States.

Several cities in the U.S. announced that — despite concerns — they will not suspend the sales of firearms, according to the Chicago Tribune.

In Virginia, people must be above 18 or 21 years of age to purchase weapons, depending on the type of firearm, and take courses before they can apply for a license.

People seeking more information can check out the Virginia State Police’s website, which has a list of frequently asked questions and contact information.

Photo via Jeremy Alford/Unsplash

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Northern Virginia’s Growth and Its Impact on Leasing — “From Arlington to Herndon, the economic upswing following 2008 continues to spur growth throughout many parts of Northern Virginia. According to JLL Research, the region reported its highest positive net absorption in nearly a decade by the end of 2019. Spearheaded by the “War on Terror,” the last comparable development and expansion period came from government and defense contractors vying for space in the early 2000s.” [Washington Business Journal]

Stateside: Ban on Assault Weapons Fails — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s push to ban the sale of assault weapons has failed after members of his own party balked at the proposal. Senators voted to shelve the bill for the year and ask the state crime commission to study the issue, an outcome that drew cheers from a committee room packed with gun advocates.” [WTOP]

Fairfax County Reconsiders Mother-in-Law Suites — “Fairfax County could soon substantially loosen its regulations governing accessory dwelling units, perhaps following the lead of D.C. and other local jurisdictions looking to expand available housing options for renters.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Dazzling is the only word I could think of to describe the amazing work that is going on in the Virginia General Assembly this legislative session. The annual meeting of the legislature is just approaching half-time of its annual session, but already significant policy changes are being debated and adopted. There is little new to the policies that are being adopted; many are in place in other states already. But in Richmond they seem revolutionary!

I have already written about the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the early days of the session. The movement to ratify the ERA began in the early 1970s but was not successful in Virginia until nearly 50 years later! Since two ratification deadlines have already passed, the fate of the amendment with Virginia being the needed 38th state to ratify is uncertain. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is among the leaders seeking a judicial decision to validate the amendment’s ratification. Although the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote was ratified in 1920 and added to the Constitution, Virginia did not add its support to ratification until 1952!

While legislation must be passed by both houses of the legislature and signed by the governor to become law, here is a run-down on what has been approved so far by at least one house. By the time the legislature adjourns in early March this legislation is expected to be approved by both houses and sent to the governor. Numerous bills have been passed to ban discrimination against persons because of their sex; bills to protect LGBTQ+ persons would not have made it out of committee last year. Bills to ban discrimination in housing, public accommodations, employment and credit applications have passed as has a bill to ban conversion therapy.

Likewise, bills to protect public safety from the misuse of guns that would never have made it out of committee previously have passed in both houses of the Assembly. My bill to require universal background checks has passed as well as bills granting localities the right to ban guns in public spaces, increasing the penalties for leaving guns unsecured around children, and requiring people to report lost or stolen guns within 24 hours. A “red flag” law that allows authorities to remove guns from individuals who have shown themselves to be a danger to themselves and to others has passed.

This week action is expected on bills that will open up the state to more solar and wind power and that will establish standards for the increased use of renewables in generating electricity. Plastic bags may be eliminated or taxed to reduce plastic pollution. I am sponsoring the Governor’s bill to advance the clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay that is getting some push-back from the farming community that would be affected by regulations to clean up stream run-off. Numerous bills have already passed to make it easier to register to vote and to vote on election day, including no-excuse absentee voting.

There is more to come. Tune in next week or follow the sessions on live-streaming at House Chamber Live Stream for more dazzling action!

File photo

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