Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Board over the weekend voted to ban guns in county buildings, parks and at some special events.

The new ordinance was made possible by the Virginia General Assembly, which recently approved legislation allowing localities to adopt certain prohibitions on firearms.

Forty people signed up to speak at Saturday’s County Board meeting, some for and some against the proposal. Those for it said county properties would be safer without guns. Those against it said people should be able to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms and defend themselves, even in a public park or county building.

Among the speakers was independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement, who said the ordinance endangers lives.

“I’m afraid that the current County Board led by my opponent, Libby Garvey, is endangering the citizens it has sworn to protect,” she wrote in an email to supporters earlier today. “It adopted a blanket gun ban on County property and County sponsored events, thus assuring that future targets of gun violence are unable to defend themselves on public property.”

“The issue isn’t dead, as gun rights advocates have vowed to challenge the gun ban in court,” Clement added.

Others spoke in favor of the ordinance, including Navy veteran and former Democratic congressional candidate Bruce Shuttleworth.

“We need to keep our weapons of war out of our places of peace,” Shuttleworth said, after asserting that he had more experience handling weapons — from sidearms to grenade launchers — than anyone at the meeting.

The ordinance includes a number of exceptions, including allowing active duty military, sworn and retired law enforcement, and certain private security personnel to carry guns, even in prohibited areas.

In addition to passing the firearms ordinance, the Board allocated $110,000 for signage, “so that gun permit holders would know easily where guns are prohibited and where they can, and cannot, carry their weapons.” In a change from the originally-proposed ordinance, the adopted ordinance will only apply to places that are “clearly marked.”

More on the ordinance from a county press release:

The Arlington County Board today voted unanimously to adopt a Firearms Ordinance banning guns in County government buildings and parks, and at designated special events that require a County permit. The restrictions will apply where the County has posted notice at entrances to buildings, parks, recreation and community centers, and at entrances to events.

The Board’s action was authorized under a State law signed by Governor Ralph Northam in April 2020 that allows localities to set their own rules on the presence of firearms in public. The County’s 2020 General Assembly legislative package included a provision requesting such authority. The Board held a public hearing on July 22, 2020, and voted to advertise a September 2020 public hearing on the proposed ordinance.

“Arlington sought and supported the common-sense gun laws passed by the General Assembly earlier this year,” Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “After hearing from many people, both for and against this measure, the Board has adopted gun restrictions that we believe reflect the values of our community, and that will enhance the safety of all those who enter County buildings, or who visit County parks, recreation, and community centers or participate in special events permitted by the County.”

After hearing testimony from dozens of people at a public hearing during its Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, Regular Meeting, the Board voted adopted the ordinance, with two changes to what was advertised. One change clarified that the ordinance would apply only in areas that were clearly marked, so that gun permit holders would know easily where guns are prohibited and where they can, and cannot, carry their weapons. The second was to include an exception for special events, so organizers can supply their own security in public areas during their event. That security would be approved by Arlington County as part of the special events permits process.

The Board also allocated $110,000 from the County Manager’s Contingent to cover the cost of signage.

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A 29-year-old D.C. man is behind bars after police say he pulled a gun on a tow truck driver early this morning.

The incident happened just before 3:30 a.m., near the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive. Police say a tow truck driver was about to tow a car when the suspect approached, brandishing a gun and demanding the car be released. He then drove off.

The suspect and his car were later spotted a few blocks away, in Alcova Heights. Police say he took off on foot, tossed the gun and tried to scale a fence, but was tased by officers and taken into custody.

The suspect is now facing a battery of charges, including robbery, reckless driving and weapons violations.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

ARMED ROBBERY, 2020-08280038, S. Walter Reed Drive at Columbia Pike. At approximately 3:21 a.m. on August 28, police were dispatched to the report of a brandishing. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim had finished securing the suspect’s vehicle prior to towing it when he was approached by the suspect, who allegedly brandished a firearm, threatened the victim and demanded the release of the vehicle and items of value. The victim complied and the suspect fled in his vehicle. Arriving officers located the suspect vehicle parked and unoccupied in the area of 9th Street S. and S. Monroe Street and observed the suspect walking in the area. As additional officers arrived on scene, the suspect fled on foot and a brief foot pursuit ensued, during which the suspect discarded the firearm he was carrying. The suspect ignored lawful commands of officers and attempted to flee over a fence. An officer successfully deployed their taser and he was taken into custody without further incident. Drake Anthony, Jr., 29, of Washington, D.C., was arrested and charged with charged with Robbery, Brandishing a Firearm, Reckless Handling of a Firearm, Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony, Obstruction of Justice, Carrying a Concealed Weapon, and Reckless Driving, and held on no bond.

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) Men armed with a gun and a knife carjacked someone this afternoon in Crystal City.

The armed carjacking happened around 1:30 p.m., near the intersection of 15th Street S. and S. Bell Street — a block from the Crystal City Metro station.

“The victim was inside of their vehicle when they were approached by two suspects,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Kirby Clark tells ARLnow. “Suspect One displayed a knife and Suspect Two displayed a firearm and forced the victim to exit the vehicle. The suspects then threatened the victim and fled in the vehicle Northbound on Richmond Highway. The vehicle is described as a 2013 BMW X3 with Virginia license plates.”

The investigation is ongoing, Clark said.

This is the tenth carjacking so far this year, according to Clark, amid what police acknowledge has been a marked increase in vehicle-related property crimes, including car break-ins and thefts of idling vehicles. There have also been two attempted carjackings so far this year.

There was one carjacking reported during all of 2019, Clark said.

File photo

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The County Board last night unanimously approved consideration of a new ordinance that would effectively ban carrying firearms on county-owned property.

The move is the first step towards making the ordinance part of county policy, though it will still need to undergo a public hearing and a vote at the Board’s next meeting.

According to a staff report:

The proposed ordinance would restrict the possession, carrying or transportation of any firearms on specified locality property. Buildings and other property will be posted to notify the public of the restrictions. The proposed ordinance provides for a Class 1 Misdemeanor penalty for violations.

The ordinance would ban carrying or transporting firearms in buildings owned, leased or used by the County as well as in parks, recreational or community facilities owned or used by the County. Staff clarified that in buildings only partially used by the County, the restriction would be in effect for parts of the building the county government was operating out of.

“The legislation also authorized these prohibitions in public streets where there is a permitted event, whether or not the event actually received its permit,” the staff report said. “We believe this added authorization allows the County to enforce this prohibition on public streets during an event operating under a Special Event Permit.”

Those not affected by the ordinance would include:

  • Military personnel acting within the scope of their official duties
  • Sworn or retired law enforcement officers
  • Private security personnel hired by the County
  • Historical reenactors and those possessing inoperative, unloaded firearms when such persons are participating in or traveling to/from special events that involve the display or demonstration of these firearms
  • Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs and intercollegiate sports where the sport includes the use of a firearm

The move comes after the General Assembly approved legislation allowing localities to adopt certain prohibitions on firearms. The first advertisement for the proposed ordinance was at a County Board meeting Wednesday night, with a full public hearing scheduled for Sept. 12.

The legislation is nearly identical to similar legislation passed recently in Alexandria and is shaping up to face similar opposition. County Manager Mark Schwartz vowed to craft the ordinance to be in-line with policies in neighboring jurisdictions.

During the public comment yesterday, there were roughly 60 speakers, with County Board Chair Libby Garvey noting that an unusually high number of speakers who were not Arlington residents.

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Morning Notes

GOP Senate Primary Today — “Three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s Virginia primary are hoping to win a chance to defeat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner in November’s general election. Alissa Baldwin, Daniel Gade and Thomas Speciale will be on the Republican primary ballot.” [The Center Square]

Pike Housing Proposal Delayed Amid Outcry — “Faced with criticism on multiple fronts, Arlington County Board members on June 16 essentially threw a staff proposal under the bus, delaying for three months consideration of a controversial plan on how to prioritize affordable housing in the Columbia Pike corridor… It would have increased the maximum threshold, from the current 60 percent of area median income to up to as much as 100 percent, for individuals to qualify for assistance in buying properties.” [InsideNova]

River Rescues Near Chain Bridge Saturday — “D.C. firefighters and police officers on Saturday rescued eight adults and four children who became trapped on rocks in the Potomac River and were cut off from shore by rapidly rising waters in a sudden rainstorm.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Arlington Home Show Cancelled — The pandemic has led to the cancellation of the annual Arlington Home Show and Garden Expo, which had earlier been rescheduled for Saturday, June 27. [Arlington County]

ACPD Investigating Brandishing Incident — “On June 21, police were dispatched to the report of a brandishing. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was driving in the area of 31st Street S. and S. Abingdon Street when he was allegedly cut off by the suspect. The suspect then waved the victim in front of him and began following him. When the victim parked, the suspect pulled alongside his vehicle and a verbal dispute ensued, during which the suspect brandished a firearm.” [Arlington County]

Traffic Getting Back to Normal — “Car and truck volume trends in Virginia are moving back toward normal after plummeting during the COVID-19 shutdown, according to numbers released Friday by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Pandemic traffic on state-maintained interstates and primary roads hit a low on April 12, a Sunday… The numbers have gradually rebounded since, climbing back to around 20 percent below normal by the end of May.” [Virginia Mercury]

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Arlington County Police are investigating an armed carjacking that occurred in Pentagon City over the weekend.

Officers were dispatched to a parking garage on the 1300 block of S. Eads Street, across the street from Amazon’s under-construction HQ2, around 10 p.m. Friday. A man told police that three suspects, one of whom was armed with a gun, approached him when he was in his car. The victim exited the car and the suspects drove off with it, according to ACPD.

A tipster tells ARLnow that the carjacking happened in an apartment building’s parking garage and that the garage door was broken at the time, allowing the suspects to enter the garage freely.

So far, no arrests have been announced.

More from an ACPD crime report:

CARJACKING, 2020-05150162, 1300 block of S. Eads Street. At approximately 10:00 p.m. on May 15, police were dispatched to the report of an armed carjacking. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was inside his parked vehicle in a garage when he was approached by two suspects, one of whom displayed a firearm and tapped on the window. A third suspect approached the scene in a vehicle, while the other two suspects rummaged through the victim’s vehicle and demanded the keys. The suspects entered the victim’s vehicle and fled prior to police arrival. Suspect One is described as a black male, age 15-20, 5’9″-5’11”, 140-160 lbs. Suspect Two is described as a black male, 15-20 years old. Suspect Three is described as a black male, 15-20 years old, driving a hatchback vehicle. The victim’s vehicle is a gray 2007 Toyota Avalon with Virginia license plate XFY3363. The investigation is ongoing.

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Arlington County Police have charged two juvenile suspects in connection with an alleged burglary in Green Valley that drew national media attention.

Police say the two juveniles broke into the store —  the Arlington Smoke Shop at 2428 Shirlington Road — early on a Sunday morning in late March and were in the process of stealing items when an employee emerged from a backroom with a gun and opened fire.

One of the suspects was shot “point blank in the back,” and the shooting was caught on video surveillance, prosecutors said. The employee, 33-year-old Hamzeh Abushariah, is now facing serious charges including Malicious Wounding. Gun rights advocates have taken up his cause, which has received national attention on Fox News and other, mostly conservative-leaning media outlets.

While Abushariah’s case is pending, police today announced that two of the alleged burglars are also now facing a slew of charges.

“Charges have been sought against two juvenile suspects related to the breaking and entering which occurred on March 29,” ACPD said. “The suspects have been charged with Burglary, Attempted Grand Larceny, Conspiracy to Commit a Felony, Conspiracy to Commit Larceny and Destruction of Property. In accordance with Virginia law, their identities are not releasable.”

An investigation into the role of a third suspect — who has not yet been charged — “is ongoing,” police said.

The individual who was shot was one of the two suspects facing charges, Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. That suspect “remains in a medical facility,” she said.

Photo via Google

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A Maryland man is facing multiple charges after police say a dispute over a parking space escalated to violence.

The incident happened shortly before noon Sunday, on the 4400 block of 31st Street S. near Shirlington and a number of apartment buildings.

Police say two drivers “became engaged in a dispute over a parking spot” that resulted in the suspect assaulting the victim after the victim had parked. The suspect also drew a gun during the incident, according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report.

More from ACPD:

BRANDISHING, 2020-04190043, 4400 block of 31st Street S. At approximately 11:41 a.m. on April 19, police were dispatched to the report of a person with a gun. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim and suspect became engaged in a dispute over a parking spot. After the victim parked, the suspect exited his vehicle, allegedly approached the victim, grabbed him and assaulted him. The suspect then went inside of a residential building, but immediately returned and brandished a firearm at the victim, before fleeing into the building again. During the course of the investigation, officers developed a possible suspect description. Officers located and made contact with the suspect and took him into custody without incident. The victim was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Desmond Young, 30, of Fort Washington, Md., was arrested and charged with Strangulation, Brandishing a Firearm and Assault & Battery.

File photo

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The following op-ed was written by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), chair of Virginia House Public Safety Committee, following Gov. Ralph Northam signing several gun violence prevention measures into law.

Knocking on doors last summer and fall, I asked Arlington voters their top legislative concerns. The largest response, by far, was for the General Assembly to take action to reduce gun violence.

That same sentiment has been growing across the commonwealth for years due to the lack of response to tragedies, such as, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Columbine, and more recently, Virginia Beach. But the gun violence prevention movement is not just about the mass shootings you see and hear about in the media. It’s the daily acts of gun violence — over 100 a day — occurring in our communities and firearm suicides that you don’t hear about.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 there were 1,041 gun deaths in Virginia. The Virginia firearm suicide rate has increased by 15% over the last decade and the firearm homicide rate increased 45%. Of all the suicides, nearly two-thirds are by firearm. Thirty-two children die by firearm every year in Virginia. Year after year, advocates from Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Brady Campaign, Giffords, and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence come to Richmond to lobby for commonsense solutions only to be rejected.

But the 2020 legislative session would be different. I could tell gun violence prevention was going to be a rallying point for voters ever since Governor Ralph Northam, who called for a July 9 special session following a mass shooting in Virginia Beach, had his call to action thwarted by Republicans who immediately adjourned the session without taking any action. Virginia Democrats made gun violence prevention a central campaign theme in the 2019 election. Legislators finally listened to the voices of voters and we delivered.

House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn tapped me to chair the House Public Safety Committee to oversee the passage of one of the House Democrats highest priorities: gun violence prevention. Those items that passed and recently signed by the Governor include:

  • Universal background checks on all firearm sales;
  • Reinstate the law allowing the purchase of only one handgun within a 30-day period;
  • Requiring lost or stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement within 48 hours;
  • Create an Extreme Risk Protective Order that would allow a court to order the temporary separation of firearms from an individual determined to be danger to self or others (this bill was patroned by Del. Rip Sullivan);
  • Prohibiting the person the subject of a protective order from possessing a firearm (this bill was patroned by Sen. Janet Howell);
  • Enhancing the penalty for recklessly allowing child access to a loaded firearm;
  • Allowing localities, such as Arlington, to prohibit firearms in County buildings, parks, or recreation centers.

These laws will save lives.

Other bills that passed include the requirement for a person to receive a concealed handgun permit to demonstrate competence in-person (patroned by Del. Alfonso Lopez); creation of a Virginia Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention Fund; adding child day centers to the list of schools where firearms are not allowed; prohibiting the possession/sale of bump stocks; and my bill to clarify school boards are prohibited from arming untrained personnel for school protection; and another to require family day homes to lock up firearms during operating hours.

The House passed a bill to ban military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines but, unfortunately, the bill was defeated in a Senate Committee. This bill was patroned by Del. Mark Levine.

Critics say the House moved too fast. It may seem that way if you are used to doing nothing or preferred we did nothing. In my view, however, we struck the right balance acting only on measures that have been proven to save lives. Many of these bills have been introduced, studied, and debated for years. It was time to be responsive to Virginia voters and act.

Why does this issue mean so much to me and so many others? Kris Brown, Arlington resident and President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, summed it up best when she recently tweeted: “There are too many children living in constant fear in their schools, in their homes, and in their neighborhoods. We owe them all a better future.” As the father of three children, I couldn’t have said it better.

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A lot of local businesses are struggling during the coronavirus outbreak, but at least one seems to be doing just fine.

Nova Armory, the Lyon Park gun store that generated controversy when it opened four years ago, has had lines out the door for at least the past week.

The store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive, which did not respond to a request for comment from ARLnow, said via social media last week that it was only allowing six people inside at a time and increasing sanitation efforts, in order to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

Gun stores across Virginia have been seeing an increase in business amid the pandemic, NBC 4 reported.

The News 4 I-Team requested statewide data since the beginning of March and found the highest number of requests for background checks, 3,753, on Saturday, March 7, the very day Virginia announced its first COVID-19 case.

In the 10 days that followed, background check requests were up 45% from the same time period last year.

But Virginia State Police say this uptick hasn’t come close to the single-day record of 5,645 background check requests, set on Black Friday in 2019, shortly after Democrats won control of the Virginia legislature.

On Sunday, Nova Armory said it would be shifting to primarily appointment-based sales, starting Tuesday.

“All appointments will take priority over any walk-in customers,” the store said.

Photos courtesy anonymous

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Morning Notes

NPS Seeking Funds for GW Parkway Upgrades — “[National Park Service] officials are pursuing funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program to support the [GW Parkway’s] North Section Rehabilitation Program. That program will rebuild a 7.6-mile section of the parkway from Spout Run Parkway to Interstate 495, address serious deterioration of the roadway and implement significant safety improvements.” [InsideNova]

Update on Cupid the Cat — “‪We want to send a HUGE thank you to everyone who has donated so far to Cupid’s recovery! We have been overwhelmed by all of your support, and are so grateful for your kindness and generosity. We’re happy to report that today Cupid is doing really well after his surgery yesterday! He has a good appetite, is getting lots of rest and just wants to spend as much time as possible snuggling with our staff.” [Facebook]

Shirlington Employment Center to Relocate — “Arlington County Board members later this month are slated to approve the move of the Shirlington Employment & Education Center (SEEC) into space at the Arlington Mill Community Center. The non-profit organization will occupy 845 square feet of space on the fourth floor at the center, located at the intersection of Columbia Pike and South Dinwiddie Street. It currently occupies space in the Four Mile Run corridor.” [InsideNova]

Mother Climbs Mountain After Son’s Death — “After losing a teenage son, Henry, to leukemia, Arlington resident Heather Burneson had to take life one step at a time. She took that attitude to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa on ‘a healing trip,’ for her and several family members.” [Connection Newspapers]

Armed Man Protests at Del. Levine’s House — “A Republican official from Hopewell, Virginia drove to Alexandria this weekend for a small, armed protest outside Delegate Mark Levine’s home in Old Town.” The state lawmaker, who represents parts of Alexandria Arlington and Fairfax County, “said when he found out about the protest, he called the police.” [ALXnow]

Nearby: Local Sears Store Closing — “The Seven Corners Sears is closing April 12. There are deep discounts throughout the store. Signs in the store say all sales are final, no returns are allowed, and points may be redeemed on purchases.” [Annandale Blog]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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