Virginia Attorney General Finds More Roving Gun-Free Zones

NRA-ILA No Guns Sign VA Alexandria
The Virginia state government’s attacks on law-abiding gun owners continue apace. IMG NRA-ILA

U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- The Virginia state government’s attacks on law-abiding gun owners continue apace. On September 1, Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) used his position to offer an expansive interpretation of statute that will create a confusing patchwork of gun-free zones throughout the Commonwealth. Herring’s actions are an important reminder that gun rights supporters need to be cognizant not only of the plain reading of proposed statutes, but also how their language might be perverted by anti-gun political officials.

Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly passed and Governor Ralph Northam (D) signed HB 2081. The legislation altered VA Code Ann. § 24.2-604 to make it a crime “to knowingly possess any firearm… within 40 feet of any building, or part thereof, used as a polling place.” Violating this provision is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a year imprisonment, up to a $2,500 fine, or both.

A reasonable person might read the new § 24.2-604 and take care not to exercise their Right-to-Carry while voting or near the local voting precincts on election day. However, by Herring’s lights, the new prohibition is far broader in both space and time.

The attorney general was asked the following by an Albemarle County election official. (Albemarle is the county surrounding the city of Charlottesville, which is home to the University of Virginia.)

[D]uring ‘early voting,’ prior to the date of a general, special, or primary election, are central absentee voter precincts, voter satellite offices, and offices of general registrars ‘polling places,’ and thus subject to the firearm prohibition?

Never one to pass up an opportunity to curtail the rights of law-abiding gun owners, Herring responded,

It is my opinion that firearms are prohibited at central absentee voter precincts, voter satellite offices, and offices of general registrars where they are the designated locations for early voting in the locality, in the same way that firearms are prohibited at polling places when the polls are open on Election Day.

Moreover, Herring made clear that the prohibition “applies to the 40-foot boundary around the portion of the building being used as a polling place, including any entrances and exits,” but not necessarily the entire building.

Early voting in Virginia starts 45 days prior to election day. Early and absentee voting locations are often peppered throughout a jurisdiction and can change from election to election. As Virginia has off-off-year state elections, the Commonwealth’s law-abiding gun owners will be forced to navigate around a confusing patchwork of shifting gun-free zones for at least a month-and-a-half every year starting in mid-September.

Contrary to Herring’s view, the language of § 24.2-604 contemplates its prohibited activities applying to an “election day.” Consider subsection (E), which states, “This section shall not be construed to prohibit a candidate from entering any polling place on the day of the election to vote, or to visit a polling place for no longer than 10 minutes per polling place per election day…”

As with so much government regulation, HB 2081 and the expansive attorney general’s opinion are completely unnecessary to protect Virginia voters.

VA Code Ann. § 24.2-607 already makes it “unlawful for any person to hinder, intimidate, or interfere with any qualified voter so as to prevent the voter from casting a secret ballot.” A violation of this statute is punishable in the same manner as the new firearm prohibition – as a Class 1 misdemeanor. If a criminal were to commit politically motivated violence at a polling place they could also potentially face charges under Virginia’s terrorism statute (VA Code Ann. § 18.2-46.5) in addition to the underlying offense.

Further, the legislation and Herring’s creative interpretation weren’t even necessary for the hoplophobic portions of the Commonwealth to restrict firearms in early voting locations. Enacted in 2020, HB421/SB35 weakened Virginia’s longstanding state firearms preemption law to grant localities the power to create gun-free zones “in any building, or part thereof, owned or used by such locality, or by any authority or local governmental entity created or controlled by the locality, for governmental purposes.”

Given the pre-2021 statutes that could be brought to bear on this matter, it’s clear these new restrictions aren’t about public safety. These measures are about politicians indulging their ugly political and cultural prejudices by further discouraging law-abiding gun owners from exercising their Right-to-Carry in the Commonwealth.


About NRA-ILA:

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess, and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit: www.nra.org

National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)

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JimmyS
JimmyS
1 month ago

Wow, imagine that! When courts create “exceptions” to the lawful exercise of natural rights, governments and their enforcers soon discover that EVERYTHING meets the “exception” definition!

Who could have foreseen this!? The odds of such a series of coincidences are staggering!

Mike the Limey
Mike the Limey
1 month ago

Are all these temporary “gun free zones” going to be clearly designated with signs showing the boundaries thereof?

No?

Thought not.

Without signs, the state leaves itself wide open to lawsuits, which it will lose.

No One Worth Watching
No One Worth Watching
1 month ago

I have no problem with getting around GFDZ’s (Gun Free Death Zones) because I ignore them all and carry anyway. My concealed firearm tucked safely in its holster harms no one, and is only a “danger” to those that are committed to perpetrating violence.

Laddyboy
Laddyboy
1 month ago

Question: How do you know a politician is lying?
.
Answer: Their lips are flapping!!

Russn8r
Russn8r
1 month ago

Why is NRA’s own HQ state of Virginia becoming Calizuela?

Since the 1997 LaPew-Hammerhead “Winning Team” coup d’etat, members donated $15-20 Billion in today’s dollars that could’ve saved VA & the USA.

Vampire-grifters & their corrupt derelict rubber-stamp “board of directors” looted it & ran NRA into the ground. When NRA did spend on lobbying, they sabotaged efforts to abolish the “gun-free” zones that NRA itself had inserted into Virginia’s shall-issue “carry”. Now they’re shocked – SHOCKED I say! – that communists are expanding them. You see, only NRA-backed “gun free” zones are good! See how that works?

https://nraindanger.wordpress.com/2021/09/19/comparisons-to-nras-experience/

Russn8r
Russn8r
1 month ago
Reply to  Russn8r

P.S. Virginia was also lost to over-immigration, THE fatal indirect 2A issue that NRA refuses to acknowledge or fight. NRA is infested with toadies of faux-pro-gun Grover al Nor’qu’ist, VichyCon Bloomberg collaborator & coauthor with fellow “cheap labor” LoLibertarian John Lott.

Last edited 1 month ago by Russn8r
Henry Bowman
Henry Bowman
1 month ago
Reply to  Russn8r

The NRA leadership has NO EXCUSE. WLP is indeed a vampire!

Career Grifter NRA Fudd Wayne LaPierre.png