Take a foolish idea, put out a news release, then stand back and watch what happens! That seems to be the approach taken by a gun rights group to stir up interest in a “gun giveaway” tonight at the Mason District Governmental Center. No matter that the community still is sorting out its grief and anger over the senseless shootings of 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech just a month ago. No matter that the drawing is being held in a public building that houses a police station. No matter that two dedicated Fairfax County police officers were gunned down exactly a year ago in a similar county police station. It’s wrong, but sadly, it’s also legal.
The Mason District Governmental Center has been a community meeting place for decades. Public meeting rooms are available for use, without charge, to local civic and non-profit groups that meet the criteria for reserving space in county government centers. For several years, the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) has been holding monthly meetings at the Mason Governmental Center, without incident. The Virginia General Assembly has refused to enact legislation to restrict dangerous weapons in county facilities, so the VCDL members, many of whom have legal “concealed carry” permits, are allowed to bring their concealed weapons into the building for their meetings. I don’t like it, never have, but the law is not on my side, nor yours, judging from the angry calls and e-mails from constituents.
Tonight, according to their news releases, the VCDL will give away a pistol, long rifle, and ammunition to the lucky ticket holders who made purchases from gun shops elsewhere in Virginia. When my office got wind of the scheme, I asked VCDL for clarification of the event to determine if it violated the room reservation rules against raffles and illegal gambling. VCDL submitted a written list of procedures for the activity, much of which mentioned Mayor Bloomberg of New York City who, apparently, is the target of their wrath. The “lucky” winners will not pick up their awards tonight, but must go to a licensed Virginia gun dealer, not in Fairfax County as I understand it, complete the required legal paperwork and background checks, and obtain their prize offsite. After consultation with the County Attorney and the police commander, the ticket drawing, as insensitive as it may be, appears to be legal.
Being legal, though, is a long way from being right!
(At press time, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Fairfax County was still determining whether or not the gun giveaway is permitted under Virginia law).