ALTERNATIVE PROPOSALS TO REGULATE DISCHARGE OF FIREARMS

 

PROPOSED DEFINITIONS:

                       

            Dwelling:  A building, a part of a building, a mobile or manufactured home, or other enclosed space that is used or intended for use as a place where one or more people reside.  The term shall not include a hunting cabin.

 

            Firearm:  A rifle, shotgun, pistol, air gun, air rifle, BB gun, pellet gun or similar devices, designed to expel a projectile through a gun barrel of any length by means of explosives or expansion or release of compressed air or gas.

 

            Residential district:  Any district described as VR, R-1, R-2, R-4, R-6, R-10, R-15, NMD, PUD or PRD on the official zoning map of the county.

 

PROPOSED EXCEPTIONS:

 

1.  The discharge of firearms in defense of person or property as otherwise permitted by law; (in current county code)

2. The discharge of firearms on any target, trap or skeet range or hunting preserve lawfully existing upon the date of adoption of this section or hereafter established in compliance with all other provisions of this Code or other county ordinances or state law;

3.  The discharge of firearms on any target or rifle range established and operated by the police or other law enforcement department;

4.  The discharge of firearms in a private below ground level basement or cellar target range;

5.  The discharge of firearms to kill any dangerous or destructive wild animal;

6.  The discharge of firearms to legally euthanize any sick or wounded animal;

7.  The discharge of firearms by any duly authorized police officer or law enforcement official acting in the proper performance of his duties;

8.  The discharge of firearms with blank cartridges in theatrical performances, sporting events, or in the firing of salutes at military funerals or other military affairs.  

9. The discharge of firearms for the purpose of killing deer pursuant to Va. Code § 29.1-529, on land of at least five acres that is zoned RA. (required by state law, see Attachment D)

 

PROPOSED OPTIONS FOR RESTRICTED AREAS:

 

A.     Residential Districts. Within boundaries of all residential districts. (area restricted under current County Code)

 

B.     County wide safety zone.  County wide - within 200 yards from any dwelling (without permission of the owner or occupant), business establishment, public building, public gathering, or public meeting place. (distance of restricted area could be reduced) (concept included in draft ordinance previously discussed by Board)

 

C.     County wide except in RA.  County wide except property that is zoned RA.

 

D.     RA subdivisions by petition.  Within platted boundary of an RA zoned subdivision if approved by ordinance upon petition of the owners of the majority of the lots within the subdivision.

 

E.      RA safety zone.  RA zoning district - within 200 yards from any dwelling (without permission of the owner or occupant), business establishment, public building, public gathering, or public meeting place within the RA zoning district. (distance of restricted area could be reduced)(concept included in draft ordinance previously discussed by Board)

F.      School and park restrictions.  Within 100 yards of any property line of a public school or county or regional park.  (enabled by Virginia Code § 29.1-527, see Attachment C)

 

ALTERNATIVE 1: 

                 

            Option A  (residential districts) {no change to County Code}

 

Advantages:

1.      Has been in effect since 1981 with few enforcement problems.

2.      Prohibits shooting in most growth area subdivisions.  (NMD district needs to be added to definition of “residential district”)

Disadvantages:

1.      Does not apply to commercial areas of the county.  Shooting that is not “reckless” can occur in non-residential districts.

2.      Does not apply to RA subdivisions.

3.      Does not apply to commercial buildings, schools, parks, or public meeting places in areas of the County zoned RA or non-residential.

4.      Does not provide for any exceptions except exception (1).(Other exceptions could be added to existing County Code)

 

ALTERNATIVE 2:

 

            Option A (residential districts) plus Option B (county wide safety zone) {draft ordinance presented to Board on November 1, 2006}

 

Advantages:

1.      Option A component continues to protect residentially zoned districts.

2.      Option B component has been successfully adopted and administered in similar localities. (Chesterfield, Prince William, Hanover, and Fauquier)

3.      Uniformly applies to similar structures throughout county.  Would apply to all neighborhoods, businesses, and public places.

4.      Would prohibit shooting close to where people, live, work, or meet.

Disadvantages:

1.      May create false sense of safety if careless shooting still occurs more than 200   yards from structures or residential districts.

2.      200 yards could overly restrict responsible hunting in rural areas.(distance can be reduced, other ordinances have a 100 yard distance)

3.      May be inconsistent with reasonable expectation of permitted shooting activities in rural areas.        

 

ALTERNATIVE 3:

 

            Option C (County wide except in RA)

 

Advantages:

1.      Protects all residential and commercial zoned properties.

2.      Eliminates issues related to establishing “safety zones”.

3.      Would not restrict hunting or shooting in rural areas.

Disadvantages:

1.      Would not apply to dwellings or subdivisions in areas of the County zoned RA.

2.      Would not apply to commercial buildings, schools, parks, or public meeting places in areas of the County zoned RA.

ALTERNATIVE 4:

 

            Option C (County wide except in RA) plus Option D (RA subdivisions by petition)

 

Advantages:

1.      Same as Alternative3 except it would  apply in RA subdivisions where ordinance is initiated by property owners.

2.      May not unnecessarily restrict hunting or shooting in rural areas.

Disadvantages:

1.      Would not apply to all dwellings or subdivisions in areas of the County zoned RA.

2.      Would not apply to commercial buildings, schools, parks, or public meeting places in areas of the County zoned RA.

3.      Option D component would require neighborhoods to take position on potentially divisive and emotional issue to meet petition requirement.

4.      Option D could require the Board to hold multiple public hearings on ordinances to include individual subdivisions in restricted areas.

5.      Would be more complicated to enforce because boundaries of subdivisions are not clearly delineated and restrictions would not apply generally.

6.      May not create substantial protected area for dwellings on the boundaries of RA subdivisions that petition to be included. (houses could be located as close as 20 feet from RA area outside of platted subdivision)

 

ALTERNATIVE 5

               

Option C (County wide except in RA) plus Option D (RA subdivisions by petition) plus Option F (school and park restrictions)

 

Advantages:

1.      Same as Alternative 4 except would provide 100 yard safety zone from property line of schools and parks.

Disadvantages:

1.  Same as Alternative 4 except it would provide 100 yard safety zone from property line of schools and parks.

 

ALTERNATIVE 6

 

Option C (County wide except in RA) plus Option E (RA safety zone)

 

Advantages:

1.       Option C component protects residential and commercial zoned districts.

2.      Option E component has been successfully adopted and administered in similar localities. (Chesterfield, Prince William, Hanover, and Fauquier)

3.      Uniformly applies to similar structures throughout the RA zoning district.  Would apply to all rural zoned neighborhoods, businesses, and public places.

4.      Would prohibit shooting close to where people, live, work, or meet in the rural areas.

Disadvantages:

1.      May create false sense of safety if careless shooting still occurs more than 200   yards from structures or subdivisions in the rural areas.

2.      200 yards could overly restrict responsible hunting in rural areas. (distance can be reduced, other ordinances have a 100 yard distance).

May be inconsistent with reasonable expectation of permitted shooting activities in rural areas.  

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