Thursday, May 3, 2012

VA-ALERT: Discovery Channel, State Parks

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Abbreviations used in VA-ALERT:

1. Discovery Channel
2. Media coverage of the new State Park regulation allowing open carry

1. Discovery Channel

After spending hours agonizing over the list of 106 volunteers for the upcoming Discovery Channel program on guns, I have chosen 7 candidates and they have all been notified of the decision.

I want to thank everyone who responded and to let you know that I gave everyone full consideration. There were just so many good choices, but I had to cull the list down.

I don't know if I've ever sighed so many times in such a short period in my life. :-(

2. Media coverage of the new State Park regulation allowing open carry

I was interviewed in this coverage from local TV Channel 6 in Richmond:


From the Washington Times:

After Long Battle, Guns Will Be Allowed in Virginia State Parks
The Washington Times
May 2, 2012 Wednesday
A, PAGE ONE; Pg. 1
Visitors can pack heat in Va. parks;
Gun activists waited long time for change

A long-standing prohibition on openly carrying guns in Virginia state
parks is set to officially end Monday, a victory for gun rights
advocates after a protracted political battle that spanned four

More than a year in the making, the state code is being changed after
Gov. Bob McDonnell in January 2011 ordered the Department of
Conservation and Recreation to stop enforcing the regulation banning
guns from parks.

The section has been part of the code or department regulations since
at least 1965, and likely since the state park system was created in
1936, according to state documents.

Republicans for a decade have sought to clarify whether the state has
legal authority to enforce gun bans and were supported by opinions
from two GOP attorneys general - one of them being Mr. McDonnell.

"This was just a lingering issue from the previous administration that
was on the radar of the folks at the Department of Conservation and
Recreation," McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell said. "The governor
made the decree a year ago to allow this. The [regulations] that we're
going through now are just catching up to policy."

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League,
said changing the regulation carries more significance than a mere
letter or directive because it will make it more difficult for future
governors to undo.

"We're glad to see that formally done," he said. "When McDonnell got
in, we got some things fixed that should have gotten fixed a long time

He pointed to a bill that allows concealed handgun permit holders to
carry guns into restaurants that serve alcohol, as long as they don't
drink. The bill was signed into law by Mr. McDonnell in 2010 after
measures were vetoed by Democrat Tim Kaine, Mr. McDonnell's
predecessor, the previous two years.

Concealed carry of guns, which requires a permit, was already allowed
in Virginia parks. Permit holders have to be at least 21 years old,
demonstrate proficiency with a gun and undergo a background check.

People 18 and older in Virginia who can legally own a gun can carry
one openly in the state without a permit, as long as it's visible and
holstered. But they were not allowed to bring a gun into a state park.
Repealing that regulation affects a significantly larger swath of the
gun-owning population because there are far more legal gun owners than
concealed-carry permit holders.

Mr. McDonnell in overturning the ban cited the 2008 legal opinion he
issued as attorney general saying the department lacked the authority
to enforce the regulation. An earlier opinion, issued in 2001 under
Randolph A. Beales, concluded that the department had the authority to
regulate concealed weapons in state parks.

In 2002, Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, a Republican, issued an
official opinion concluding that the department exceeded its authority
by banning the concealed carry of handguns by valid permit holders.

As governor, Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, told the department to amend
the regulation in line with the opinion, and the amendments allowing
concealed carry became effective in February 2003.

But open carry was a different story, Mr. Kaine said.

Mr. Kaine in 2009 disregarded Mr. McDonnell's legal opinion and
instructed the department to continue enforcing the open-carry ban.

"Through its explicit authority to maintain the safety of its parks
and the power to prescribe rules 'necessary and incidental' to such
authority, DCR has implicit authority to prohibit the open carrying of
firearms," he wrote in a 2009 letter to Joseph H. Maroon, then the
director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Mr. Kaine also wrote that the ban was an important part of maintaining
safety, citing a survey of 3,000 parks visitors, nearly 80 percent of
whom opposed allowing firearms. More than half said they would reduce
their visits to parks if people could carry guns.

"I'd much prefer there were no guns carried in state parks, but that
seems to be the way it's going," said Andrew Goddard, executive
director of the Virginia Center for Public Safety. "It's going to take
something serious to happen for people to wake up. Unfortunately, it
will be too late for somebody when that happens."

The Virginia repeal is a hard-fought victory for national gun rights
advocates. A law on concealed carry saying that national parks will be
governed by the same rules as the states in which they are located
took effect in February 2010. That means about 370 of the country's
392 National Park Service properties permit visitors to carry

Since Mr. McDonnell ordered the department to stop enforcing the
gun-ban regulations, Virginia officials have not had any incidents
directly related to the law no longer being enforced, according to
regulatory documents.

"Additionally, some visitors may feel safer as a result of their
ability to open carry firearms on the Department's properties," the
documents state.

An initial lack of incidents wouldn't be surprising, but the repeal
could have insidious effects in the long run, said Mr. Goddard, whose
son, Colin, was injured during the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

"Like any time they slacken these laws off, it doesn't immediately
turn into a problem," he said. "It just adds to the problem that where
there are more guns, there are more deaths."

VA-ALERT is a project of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc.
(VCDL). VCDL is an all-volunteer, non-partisan grassroots organization
dedicated to defending the human rights of all Virginians. The Right to
Keep and Bear Arms is a fundamental human right.

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