Proposals are in the works for constructing a permanent firearms training facility for the Arlington County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office. The preferred plan involves upgrading and expanding a facility on the Dulles International Airport property, which Arlington police currently shared with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) police.
Arlington does not have its own facility for such training, and had been sharing Alexandria’s until 2008. At that time, it was determined that Alexandria’s use had grown to such a point that it could no longer accommodate the more than 350 ACPD members and more than 100 Sheriff’s Office members as well. Arlington has been using the MWAA police shooting range since then.
The Dulles facility is said to need upgrades and an expansion. Right now, it houses a 15 point outdoor range, but under the new plan would expand to include two 25 point firing ranges and a 300 yard rifle deck. The facility currently has no shelter from weather, no running water or fixed restrooms and no classroom space.
An alternative to upgrading the Dulles range would be to find enough land on which to build a training facility within the Arlington County limits. That, however, does not appear to be a viable option, according to Deputy County Manager Mark Schwartz.
“We don’t have the land to do it. Having a firing range within the confines of the county would present some difficulties,” said Schwartz. “Try to find 21 acres in Arlington and just think of the cost.”
Arlington County lists the project in its 2013-2022 Capital Improvement Plan. The proposed price tag of $12 million, $7 million of which would be provided by Arlington County, may seem daunting to some, such as former Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement. She spoke at the County Board Public Budget Hearing last Tuesday (March 26), likening the firing range to other county funded projects she considers wasteful, such as Artisphere, the aquatics center at Long Bridge Park and the Columbia Pike streetcar.
“The project’s justification says that the firing range is needed because the one currently in use at Dulles lacks running water, fixed restroom facilities and covered firing points,” she said. “Does providing those facilities actually cost seven million plus dollars? If so, the NRA has a state-of-the-art shooting range just off the I-66, Route 50 exit that offers training for law enforcement personnel. If this range works for the NRA, and they are highly successful, why won’t it work for Arlington police?”
Partnering with the NRA is not feasible, according to Schwartz.
“That comment, I could spend an hour telling you why her suggestion was impractical,” Schwartz said. “I really think the perception would be that this is a ‘nice to have thing.’ I don’t think the county manager or the police chief or sheriffs think this is a ‘nice to have thing.’ This is a very basic part of their training and skills that they need to have.”
ACPD Deputy Chief Jay Farr added that the current cost is a good deal when taking into consideration that MWAA is footing $5 million of the total bill, in addition to supplying the land, which Schwartz estimates to be worth at least $5 million.
The incident happened just before noon on the 2100 block of N. Scott Street, in the North Highlands neighborhood. A resident called police, reporting a man dressed in camouflage in the woods of Dawson Terrace Park. The man was pointing a shotgun at something, the caller said.
Officers located the man, ordered him to drop the weapon and then took him into custody. Upon further questioning, officers determined that the man was an Art Institute student videotaping himself for a school project, according to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The man was informed that possessing a firearm is prohibited in county parks, then released without charges.
“He was not aware that he was in the wrong,” Sternbeck said. “No charges were filed. He just packed up his truck and left.”
(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) What started with polite applause ended with jeers and shouts, as Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) hosted a panel discussion on gun violence at Washington-Lee High School Monday night.
Hundreds turned out at the school’s auditorium for the discussion, with gun supporters — wearing “Guns Save Lives” stickers — outnumbering gun control advocates about 3:2, based on the volume of completing applause points.
Among the panelists on stage with Moran were:
- David Chapman, a retired ATF Special Agent and advisor to Mayors Against Illegal Guns
- Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
- Earl Cook, Alexandria Police Chief
- Jonathan Lowy, of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
- Karen Marangi, of Mayors Against Illegal Guns
While expressing general support for the Second Amendment right to own firearms, Moran and the panelists made the case for additional gun control measures, including universal background checks, an renewed assault weapons ban, magazine capacity limits and mandated reporting of stolen guns. Possible changes to the treatment of those with mental illness were also discussed.
“We hope those of you in the room will really help us to move this, so we can make our communities safer,” Marangi said of some of the gun control legislation that has been proposed in Congress.
Many in the audience, however, were there to voice another opinion. After a generally polite reception for a opening statements by the panelists, the question and answer session brought a different tone.
A majority of speakers spoke strongly in support of gun rights and against additional gun laws, and some expressed fear that the government’s ultimate goal in gun legislation is to gradually ban gun ownership. Moran and the panel’s response to the audience statements and questions often drew boos and shouts.
“Congressman, I know you’re pro-choice, but why aren’t you pro-choice when it comes to self-defense for women?” said one speaker to loud applause. “Why don’t you guys listen to the young rape victims in Colorado when they said that if they had a gun it would have prevented their attacker.”
Other gun supporters called for the elimination of “gun-free zones,” particularly around schools.
“As you can see, there are a lot of people here who are legitimate, law-abiding gun owners,” said a man who asked fellow gun owners to stand, before voicing support for allowing teachers to carry guns. “We would be more than happy to defend innocent lives should a psycho… come into an area to commit an act of violence.”
“I would be opposed to teachers carrying guns in the classroom, and I would not want my children in a classroom where their teacher was carrying a gun,” Moran said in response, to applause from gun control advocates in the audience.
“I know this community well enough to know that the people standing up in this auditorium are not representative of the majority of the residents, ” he continued, to more applause as well as some jeers.
Moran and the panelists drew the most jeers when they brought up “assault weapons.”
“What does that even mean?” some audience members shouted, about the term. Some speakers — those who stood in line to speak — made the case that the term assault weapon is often used to refer to a gun that might look menacing but isn’t significantly different, functionality-wise, from a standard semiautomatic handgun.
“I don’t agree that there’s a need for individuals to have military-style assault weapons,” Moran retorted. “I don’t believe that we need guns that can hold in excess of ten bullets.”
Adding to the urgency of passing gun control laws, Moran said, is a projection that gun deaths will exceed traffic fatalities by 2015. That expected milestone is partially due to rising gun deaths, but mostly due to advances in car safety that started in the 1970s — safety improvements, he said, that came about after being mandated by law.
Speaking to reporters after the forum, Moran said he expected a negative response from the crowd.
The forum, titled “Preventing Another Newtown: A Conversation on Gun Violence in America,” will feature a panel of experts on gun policy, public safety and mental health issues.
The following guests are slated to attend: Omar Samaha with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, retired ATF Special Agent David Chipman, Josh Horwitz with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, City of Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook, Jonathan Lowy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and former counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee Karen Marangi.
“From Virginia Tech to Newtown, gun violence has become far too common. Each day, 32 Americans are killed with a firearm. We must improve our laws to prevent the continuation of this horrific trend,” Moran said. “This forum is an opportunity to bring together a diverse panel of experts who will share their thoughts on a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence. Northern Virginians concerned over gun-related violence are invited to join the conversation.”
Members of the public are welcome to attend the forum, which will be held from 7:00-9:00 p.m. on March 11 in the Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) auditorium.
Samaha, an Arlington resident, has become an outspoken advocate for gun control since his youngest sister, Reema, was killed in the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting. He currently serves as a spokesman for the group Fix Gun Checks.
In January, Moran re-introduced a bill, the ‘NRA Members’ Gun Safety Act, which would require background checks for every gun purchase, among other measures that advocates say are supported by most National Rifle Association members. In a statement, Moran lauded Samaha’s gun violence prevention advocacy.
“Omar and his family suffered a tragic loss at the hands of a mentally ill individual with access to firearms,” Moran said. “I am impressed with his dedication to making our country safer and pleased Omar will be joining me at the State of the Union.”
“Since Omar lost his sister in 2007, our nation has experienced over 20 mass shootings with five or more fatalities,” Moran continued. “Following the Newtown shooting, President Obama took decisive action and demonstrated determined leadership by putting forward a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence. Now, Congress must act on this proposal.”
President Obama’s State of the Union address will start tonight (Tuesday) at 9:00 p.m. More about Samaha’s background, after the jump.
Accident Shuts Down GW Parkway — The northbound GW Parkway was closed this morning before Route 123 due to a reported multi-vehicle accident. Northbound traffic was being diverted onto Spout Run Parkway. [WTOP Traffic]
The Origins of Broyhill Forest — In 1952, homes in Broyhill Forest, a planned community adjacent to the Washington Golf and Country Club, went on sale for $19,000 to $27,000. Falls Church News-Press columnist Charlie Clark, a resident of Broyhill Forest, recalls the Broyhill family and their impact on Arlington. [Falls Church News-Press]
Pistol Certification Class at Arlington Church — A local firearms instruction company is offering NRA First Steps Pistol Orientation courses at Bloss Memorial Church in Lyon Park. The course completion certificate can be used to obtain concealed carry permit in Virginia. While classroom instruction is conducted at the church, live fire portions of the class are conducted at the NRA headquarters range in Fairfax. [Liberty Firearms Instruction]
Energy Journey Game on Saturday — Arlington County is organizing an “interactive life-size board game” that offers residents a chance to “challenge yourself on everyday actions that have an energy impact.” The “Energy Journey Game” starts at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 2). [Fresh AIRE]
‘Georgetown Cuddler’ Conviction Overturned — An appeals court has overturned the conviction of Arlington resident Todd M. Thomas, 26, the accused “Georgetown Cuddler.” [Washington Post]
Hope was recently appointed to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Task Force on School and Campus Safety, which was created in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The task force has been charged with making recommendations regarding improvements to school safety practices at K-12 schools and at colleges and universities. Such improvements may include expanded use of school resource officers or security guards, new state or local programs or policies, and improvements to Virginia’s mental health system.
From 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, interested parents, students and residents are invited to discuss school safety with Del. Hope at the Wakefield High School auditorium (4901 S. Chesterfield Road). Hope will give an update about the work of the task force and listen to concerns and recommendations from the audience.
Hope said the discussion will be wide-ranging, and may incorporate topics beyond the scope of the task force. For instance, the task force was not charged with making recommendation regarding firearm policies, but Hope said guns may still be discussed.
“I don’t see how you can talk about safety in classrooms without talking about gun control… It’s a little like talking about trying to cure lung cancer, but you can’t talk about smoking,” Hope told ARLnow.com. “If you really want to solve the problem, you can’t leave gun control aside.”
Hope said he will likely hold at least one more town hall meeting before the task force concludes its work this summer. The task force’s relatively short time frame, he said, is the reason the controversial topic of gun control was not included in its agenda.
Two state lawmakers who represent parts of Arlington have proposed a gun safety legislation package in the Virginia General Assembly.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin and Del. Patrick Hope, both Democrats, introduced bills that would close the so-called “gun show loophole,” require universal background checks on gun purchases, require gun owners to report stolen firearms, and restrict weapon sales to the mentally ill. To drive home the point, the lawmakers recorded two videos (above and below, after the jump) showing them buying a handgun without a background check and buying a high-capacity magazine at a recent gun show in Chantilly, Va.
The legislation was introduced Wednesday, a day before President Obama proposed legislation to require universal background checks, ban high capacity magazines, and ban assault-style weapons.
The gun control bills face an uphill battle in the Republican-controled state legislature; Hope and Ebbin called on Virginia residents to contact their legislators in support of the legislation.
From a press release:
Virginia State Senator Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Delegate Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington) have introduced a package of gun safety legislation to require universal background checks on prospective firearms purchasers (SB 1232 / HB 2025), close the gun show loophole, and tighten restrictions on the sale of weapons to the mentally ill (SB 1109 / HB 2221).
SB 1109 and HB 2221 would make it a Class 6 felony to sell firearms to persons found mentally incapacitated or who have been involuntarily admitted.
Ebbin also introduced legislation to require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms (SB 965) and to outlaw firearms in legislative buildings (SB 1012).
“We easily purchased a handgun at a Virginia gun show, without undergoing a background check. Sadly, nearly 40% of all gun sales are conducted without a background check. In the interest of community safety, it’s not too much to ask for responsible gun purchasers to undergo a background check to screen for criminal history or history of serious mental illness,” the two wrote in a joint statement.
The lawmakers discussed their visit to a gun show in a January 15th news conference at the Virginia Capitol. Hope showed the High Standard Sentinel Revolver he bought for $175; because he purchased the gun from a private dealer, he did not have to undergo a background check to screen for a criminal record. “Today, a felon with a violent past can walk into a gun show or go on the Internet and buy any gun with no questions asked,” Hope said. “A law we could pass today, requiring universal background checks for all gun sales, would have an almost immediate impact on gun safety. No responsible gun owner is afraid of a background check.”
Displaying a 30-round ammunition magazine he purchased for $20, Ebbin said, “Buying a 30-round magazine should not be as easy as buying a candy bar.” He noted that a 30-round magazine was used in the recent Newtown, Connecticut tragedy that left 26 dead.
Citing the need to pass SB 965, Ebbin said, “When a gun is stolen, a deadly weapon is in criminal hands—a combination we all want to avoid. Reporting lost or stolen guns can help police avert a tragedy.”
Hope and Ebbin called on Virginians to contact their legislators in support of the gun safety legislation.
A jogger was robbed by the men around 12:30 p.m. on the trail near the Glebe Road bridge over I-66, according to ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. The victim struggled and was struck in the head — possibly with a pistol.
The men took a GPS watch and sunglasses and fled down the trail, Sternbeck said. A short time later, another trail user told police that one of the men pointed a silver handgun in his direction when he passed by.
Police notified Arlington Public Schools of the robbery and three nearby schools — Washington-Lee High School, Arlington Traditional School and Glebe Elementary — were placed in a secured state. Based on that initial notification from ACPD, an email alert sent to parents erroneously reported a shooting.
This afternoon, the Arlington County Police notified us of a robbery of a jogger that occurred on a nearby bike path. The report we received said that the incident also involved a shooting. As a precaution, we have secured the school building and all students are being kept inside.
Three men were apprehended outside the Ballston Metro station around 1:30 p.m., Sternbeck said. A handgun was recovered. The men are now being questioned by police.
“It was great police work… getting these individuals off the street,” Sternbeck said.
The robbery victim is currently being evaluated for injuries at Virginia Hospital Center.
Two H-B Woodlawn students have created a petition calling on Congress to pass stronger gun control laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut.
The online petition has gathered 133 signatures already and resulted in 336 letters and emails being sent to Congress. Seventh graders Nicole and Daniel created the children-driven petition with the hopes that it will garner student support beyond Arlington.
“We are representing the children of the United States who do not want to wake up every morning with a thought that someone close to us, or even ourselves, might die that day,” they said in the petition. “We do not want to see our friends or loved ones die in schools or movie theaters or malls any more.”
“Please help us stop the killings and the murders and the massacres by enacting legislation that will ban assault weapons and require a special license, a strict application process with a background investigation and a mental check for every person wanting to acquire a gun,” the petition said.
This morning, the National Rifle Association held a press conference in which the organization blamed the media, the entertainment industry and video games for a culture of violence, and called for armed security guards in every American school.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. “If we truly cherish our kids more than our money… we must give them the greatest protection possible. And that protection is only available with properly-armed good guys.”
Nicole and Daniel’s father, Arlington resident Michael Getter, said that arming more citizens is not the answer.
“The time has come to take meaningful steps in preventing mass executions that have become practically a commonplace in our county,” Getter said. “There seems to be very little evidence that ease of access and proliferation of dangerous weaponry among US population is making this county any safer for its citizens.”
Photo via Arlington Public Schools
In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Congressman Jim Moran is proposing a bill called the “NRA Members’ Gun Safety Act.”
The bill will “implement five commonsense gun safety reforms that polling shows are supported by at least 63 percent of NRA members,” according to a press release (below, after the jump).
The National Rifle Association is holding a “major news conference” tomorrow (Friday). In its first public statement since the Sandy Hook massacre, the organization has said that it’s prepared to offer “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” Details about the NRA’s proposals have yet to be released.
Moran’s bill would require background checks for every gun purchase and for gun shop employees, prohibit individuals on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns, require gun owners to report to police when their guns are lost or stolen, and establish a set of minimum standards for concealed carry permits.
On Wednesday, President Obama called on Congress to act on gun control legislation. He appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead an effort to draft policies intended to reduce gun violence.
The male victim told police that a man pointed a gun at him and demanded his wallet around 7:00 Wednesday night. After taking the wallet, the perpetrator fled the scene with an accomplice who was serving as a lookout, according to police.
The park, at 1600 S. Hayes Street, is one block from the Pentagon City mall and Metro station.
From today’s daily crime report:
ROBBERY, 12/19/12, 1600 block of S. Hayes Street. At 7:00 pm on December 19, a male victim was approached by a male subject in Highlands Park. The subject allegedly pulled out a black handgun and pointed it at the victim, demanding that the victim give him his wallet. The subject took the victim’s wallet and fled the scene with another subject that had been the lookout. The first suspect is described as a black male in his 20’s, about 6’0”, wearing a dark colored hooded sweatshirt, dark jeans, and white sneakers. The second suspect was described as a black male in his 30’s, long braided hair, and wearing a dark colored puffy jacket, jeans and tan Timberland boots.
Gun Confiscated at DCA — TSA agents confiscated a 9mm handgun from a 59-year-old Fairfax man who tried to bring it with him on his trip to Dallas. The TSA said the man, who was charged with a misdemeanor weapons offense, was “just a forgetful passenger” and not a terrorist. [Washington Post]
WAMU Offers Voter Guide — WAMU has built an interactive voter guide for D.C. area elections. Among the races where voters can compare and contrast positions are the Virginia Eighth District congressional race, the Arlington County Board race, and the non-competitive Arlington School Board race.
W-L Students Collect “Cleats for Bare Feets” — Three brothers, all students at Washington-Lee High School, have been collecting hundreds of pairs of old athletic cleats for shipment and donation to disadvantaged individuals in countries like India, Mozambique, Haiti, Macedonia and Nigeria. [Arlington Mercury]
Rep. Jim Moran (D) called for the renewal of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban and the closing of the “Gun Show Loophole” in an interview Monday afternoon on MSNBC.
Moran spoke with Martin Bashir guest-host Thomas Roberts about gun control laws in the wake of last week’s movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., in which 12 were killed and dozens were injured.
Moran referred to “more than 60 multiple shootings” nationwide after the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
“We shrug our shoulders and come up with all kinds of pious, remorseful rhetoric. We ought to do something,” Moran said. “And we haven’t done anything about this. To some extent, we are complicit in these crimes if we don’t stand up and speak out.”
Moran also said that lawmakers have been “politically castrated” by the National Rifle Association.
(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) Police chiefs and sheriffs from a dozen Northern Virginia law enforcement agencies gathered for a press conference today to warn about the dangers of “look-alike or replica guns used by children and young adults.”
Arlington County Police Chief M. Douglas Scott, who participated in the news conference, said replica weapons — including realistic-looking Airsoft and BB guns — are being used by kids for play and by criminals for robberies. In all cases where replica guns are used in public, Chief Scott said, they put the person holding the weapon at great personal danger.
“The message today was really to parents and kids about the dangers of using this kind of weapon in a public place,” Scott said. “People see the weapons and they believe them to be real, and they call police.”
“Police officers have to make a split second-decision,” Scott continued. “If someone turns and brandishes a weapon… it could be tragic for everybody and we want to avoid that if at all possible.”
Scott said those brandishing replica guns in public might also be confronted by armed citizens, especially in Northern Virginia where concealed weapons permits are fairly common.
“They may be confronted [by armed citizens] in a way they did not expect,” Scott said. “There’s great danger in that… even though they did not intend to harm anybody.”
Scott said replica weapons, which are cheaper than real guns, are also increasingly being used by criminals for robberies.
“We’ve had a number of robberies this year alone where later we determined… the weapon used by the robber looks like a replica weapon,” Scott said. According to the department, there have been at least four confirmed incidents involving a BB or Airsoft gun in Arlington so far this year.
Arlington County Police say they’re planning to launch a public education campaign about replica weapons. The campaign is expected to include outreach to students by school resource officers, as well as outreach to local civic associations.
This article has been updated to remove an erroneous reference to legal differences between the use of a real gun and a fake gun in the commission of a crime.