- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Two Northern Virginia park authorities are proposing to ban firearms from hundreds of parks and recreation centers, a move that would sidestep a recent law passed by the General Assembly.
The Fairfax County Park Authority and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority are revising their rules and regulations for the first time in more than 20 years.
Regulations already prohibit a park visitor from possessing a firearm unless it is dismantled or contained within a closed case. The revised rules state that "no person, other than a law enforcement officer, shall possess a firearm or ammunition in a park."
Besides handguns, shotguns and rifles, the regulations also would prohibit patrons from carrying pellet, BB or paintball guns. Anyone violating the rule would face a fine of up to $250 and immediate ejection from a park or recreation center. Violators also could be prevented from using park property or services in the future.
A state law enacted this year strips local governments and their agents of the power to adopt rules banning firearms from local government buildings. The law specifically targeted an Alexandria ordinance that banned weapons in public facilities.
When Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner signed the measure into law on April 4, he said he wanted to ensure that localities didn't use administrative mechanisms to skirt the intent of the Virginia General Assembly.
But park officials say the law does not apply to park authorities. "We are not a municipality," said Judy Pedersen, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Park Authority. "Our position is we are an authority and we are allowed to enact a regulation to [ban firearms]."
The Fairfax County and the Northern Virginia park authorities operate under the 1950 Virginia Park Authorities Act, which allows them to adopt regulations to protect property and the safety of park visitors. They were created as independent agencies, granted the power to buy and sell land and finance their own bonds, and are not subject to oversight by any other authority.
"We're not trying to infringe on constitutional rights in any way," said Jack Robey, director of park operations for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. "We just don't want firearms to be readily accessible [at parks] so somebody in the heat of passion could use [them]."
Members from both park authorities are to hold a joint public hearing on the proposed rules tonight at Fairfax High School. Board members for each authority are expected to take final votes on the new rules in June.
Todd Adkins, deputy director for state and local affairs for the National Rifle Association, said he plans to urge board members to reconsider the proposed regulations.
"It is explicitly clear that local governments and their authorities are not allowed to regulate firearms" under the new law, Mr. Adkins said.
Hunters who simply drive through parks and happen to have guns stored in their vehicles would be targeted unfairly, Mr. Adkins said.
The new regulations contain some exceptions for park activities, such as managed deer hunts, and for hunters who take disassembled weapons through a park to access the Potomac River.
The Fairfax County Park Authority operates 387 parks including recreation centers on more than 20,000 acres. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority runs 19 parks covering more than 10,000 acres in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudon counties, and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax.

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