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Virginia localities that opt to impose “gun-free zones” on public property potentially could be on the hook for millions of dollars in liability, if long-shot legislation proposed in the 2021 General Assembly session makes it into law.

Del. John McGuire III (R-Glen Allen) is patroning legislation that would remove blanket sovereign immunity for incidents that occur to “any injuries sustained by persons lawfully present” in areas designated firearm-free zones by the state government or any of its localities.

The recently arrived Democratic majority in Richmond last year allowed for such zones, and a number of localities across Virginia – including Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church – already have imposed them. Other municipalities statewide are thinking it over.

McGuire’s legislation would seem destined to fizzle out during the session, both because Democrats in charge of the legislature would be unlikely to back it and because Virginia, in general, is a state whose political subdivisions love to protect their authority to invoke sovereign immunity to limit exposure to lawsuits and other claims.

The legal term and theory behind it made the leap from Mother England to the American colonies centuries ago – the theory being that since the government reported only to the king and the king reported only to God, and since you most certainly can’t sue God, you’d better not think about suing the king or his government, either.

Colonists gave the heave-ho to King George III in 1776 but, particularly at the state- and local-government levels, American politicians have clung to sovereign immunity ever since (although there are limits to how it can be used).

[Sun Gazette Newspapers provides content to, but otherwise is unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]

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(8) comments

Soily

Gun-free zones do nothing but insure only law-breakers have guns, making it more likely that good people will die. Liberals never do anything to make life better for honest people.

Hawkeye10

Well they tired, and then, they couldnt accept failure, so they began to try even harder...

Sic Semper Tyrannis...

Hawkeye10

When you cant look at yourself in the mirror anymore, all you can do is close your eyes and pretend...

Iwouldntgiveabean

By the same way of thinking, law enforcement officers should not be allowed to secure their belongings in their personal locker, since everyone is so full of integrity and honor.

JM

Arlington's multi-use trails were already too dangerous for walkers, hikers, and runners before the Board of Supervisors banned forearms from public places.

What's going to occur in a few years is local jurisdictions are going to be sued for negligence, sovereign immunity or not.

larryclyons

Cue the Ammosexuals in 5..4..3..2...

Fact is that study after study shows that common sense gun control legislation works, despite what wannabe Rambos want to believe.

wilkinak

The problem is that most "common sense" gun control generally lacks any semblance of common sense.

larryclyons

To explain my prior comment. Research shows that gun control legislation works.

First off, a common point raised against gun control legislation is that in places like New York, Baltimore and Detroit, gun control doesn't work. However, when you look at where all those guns in places like Baltimore, New York and Washington DC are coming from, they all originate in states with very loose gun control laws. When you can drive less than an hour, pick up some firearms in one state, and sell them for 5 or 6 times as much in DC or Baltimore, its obvious why state or city based gun control legislation will not work.

Additionally if you look at the firearm homicide rate for Canada its far less than one tenth that of the US. That can be entirely attributed to the NATIONAL firearm control laws. Moreover, from 1961 through 2011 (see http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2012001/article/11738-eng.htm), the firearm homicide rate dropped significantly each time firearms were further restricted without a corresponding rise in the homicide rate for other weapons etc.

Australia is a very good example as well. by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfred Laurier University finding that the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent, in the decade after the law was introduced, without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides.

A related article with more detailed information about gun violence in the US.

http://www.vox.com/2015/10/3/9444417/gun-violence-united-states-america

Moreover a recent study, however, found that higher ownership of guns in a state is linked to more firearm robberies, more firearm assaults and more homicide in general. The authors found no evidence that states with more households with guns led to timid criminals. In fact, firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in states with the most guns versus states with the least. Firearm robbery increased with every increase in gun ownership except in the very highest quintile of gun-owning states (the difference in that cluster was not statistically significant). Firearm homicide was 2.8 times more common in states with the most guns versus states with the least.

http://www.livescience.com/51446-guns-do-not-deter-crime.html?cmpid=514636_20150706_48708786&adbid=z121ulix3ovzj10q004chpy5grymshlhny40k&adbpl=gp&adbpr=101164570444913213957

A 2014 study published in the scientific journal Injury Prevention found a 0.9 percent increase in overall homicides for every 1 percent increase in household gun ownership.   Siegel et al. found that “for each 1 percentage point increase in proportion of household gun ownership, firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9” percent. A one standard deviation change in firearm ownership shifted gun murders by a staggering 12.9 percent.

http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/20/6/424.abstract?sid=30a4f9cc-d92f-4a89-812d-087d1404c7b3

According to the “More Guns, Less Crime” hypothesis, states with higher levels of gun ownership would expect to see lower crime rates in those categories. By contrast, the study found that states with the lowest rates of firearm ownership (Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, California, Florida, Illinois, and Maryland) had significantly lower rates of firearm-related assault and robbery, firearm homicide, and overall homicide.

States with the highest gun-ownership levels (Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas, Arizona, West Virginia, North Dakota, Idaho, Mississippi, and Alabama), meanwhile, had 6.8 times the rate of firearm assaults, 2.8 times the rate of firearm homicides, and twice the rate of overall homicides than states with the lowest gun-ownership levels.

In the category of robbery with a firearm, the relationship between gun ownership rates was less clear: The study did find that robbery rates rose with gun-ownership rates, but in some states the increases were not statistically significant.

For every other type of crime examined by the authors, however, the conclusion was the same: more guns, more crime.

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