COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE
Ordinance to amend County Code § 10-107 Firearms-Discharging within residential districts and § 10-109 Standing or walking with loaded rifle or shotgun
Discussion of proposed ordinance to amend and update County Code regulating firing and carrying firearms in certain areas
Tucker, Foley, Davis
LEGAL REVIEW: Yes
November 1, 2006
ACTION: X INFORMATION:
Due to a recent shooting incident in a rural subdivision and at the request of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, the Board asked that staff review the existing County ordinances and enabling authority to determine if additional appropriate restrictions could be placed on shooting firearms in areas where it creates a danger to public safety and to assure that the County Code was in compliance with enabling legislation. A preliminary draft ordinance was reviewed by the Board at its September 6th meeting and the Board asked that this matter be placed on a future agenda for further discussion and input from the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Chief of Police. A revised draft ordinance has been prepared and is attached for purposes of discussion.
Virginia Code § 15.2-1209 enables counties to prohibit the outdoor shooting of firearms or arrows from bows in areas of the county which are in the opinion of the governing body so heavily populated as to make such conduct dangerous to the inhabitants thereof. Pursuant to this authority Albemarle County has existing County Code § 10-107 restricting the discharge of firearms within subdivisions that are within residential zoning districts. This code section, however, does not restrict the discharge of a firearm in an RA subdivision or within any non-residential zoning district.
Virginia Code § 15.2-1209.1 enables counties to prohibit any person from carrying or having in his possession a loaded firearm while on any part of a public highway within the county. Pursuant to this authority Albemarle County has existing County Code § 10-109 restricting such conduct. However, a 2004 amendment to the enabling authority now requires an exemption in any local ordinance for persons authorized to hunt on the private property on both sides of the highway along which he is standing or walking. County Code § 10-109 currently does not contain this required exemption.
The Virginia Code also enables counties to adopt ordinances regulating the transporting of a loaded rifle or shotgun in a vehicle on public roads, hunting within fifty feet of any primary or secondary highway and shooting in or across any road or within the right of way. County Code §§ 10-108, 10-110, and 10-111 exist which establish these restrictions consistent with state law.
Goal: 1: Enhance the Quality of Life for all Albemarle County Residents.
Virginia Code § 15.2-1209 enables the governing body to determine which areas of a county are so heavily populated so as to make shooting of firearms or arrows dangerous to the inhabitants thereof. Pursuant to this authority localities such as Chesterfield, Hanover, Fauquier, and Prince William have restricted shooting of firearms in close proximity to certain dwellings or structures. The Chesterfield ordinance, for example, restricts discharging any firearm within 200 yards of a dwelling of another, a business establishment, a public building, a public gathering, or a public meeting place. This approach designates areas of the county where discharging a firearm may reasonably endanger people who have a legitimate expectation to be safe from such activities. Counties generally have found a reasonable distance from dwellings or structures within which to restrict discharging a firearm to be from 100 yards to 200 yards.
The attached draft ordinance to amend County Code § 10-107continues the existing restriction on discharging firearms within residential zoned subdivisions but in addition restricts discharging a firearm anywhere in the County within 200 yards of a dwelling of another, a business establishment, a public building, a public gathering, or a public meeting place. This restriction would address shooting in close proximity to dwellings of others located in the RA district and address the discharging of firearms in other non-residential districts. Currently there is no ordinance prohibiting the discharge of firearms in commercial districts in the County. The proposed ordinance would also amend the definition of residential district to include the Neighborhood Model District. In addition, the ordinance includes an exception, now required by state law, to permit shooting deer on five acre lots zoned for agricultural use when the shooting is authorized by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The proposed ordinance does not address the shooting of arrows.
The attached revised draft ordinance differs somewhat from the draft ordinance previously reviewed by the Board on September 6th. The attached ordinance allows for a discharge of a weapon within 200 yards of a dwelling with prior written permission of the owner or occupant of the dwelling. It also sets forth an additional seven circumstances where discharging a firearm is permitted. The total of nine circumstances where discharging a firearm is permitted is set forth in Subsection C of Section 10-107.
As a housekeeping measure, the proposed ordinance also amends County Code § 10-109 to include the exception to the prohibition of carrying a loaded firearm on a public highway if the person carrying the firearm is authorized to hunt on the private property on both sides of the highway along which he is standing or walking. The exception is required by the state enabling authority.
This ordinance does not have any anticipated budget impact.
This information and draft ordinance is prepared for the Board’s further discussion.
Attachment A-- Ordinance to amend County Code §§ 10-107 and 10-109 (September 7, 2006 Draft)
Attachment B-- Virginia Code §§ 15.2-1209 and 15.2-1209.1
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