Visitors to Virginia’s state forests can now add a new item to their day-in-the-park checklist:
Bug repellent? Check.
On Thursday, Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation began allowing visitors to carry firearms into state forests. Gov. Bob McDonnell directed the department to cease enforcement on anti-gun carry rules in the forests in January, but the new rule did not go into effect until yesterday.
Law-abiding Virginia citizens who are legally authorized to carry a firearm are allowed to bring open or concealed firearms into the forests.
“Carrying guns in the state forests is not different than carrying guns on Main Street in Richmond,” Department of Conservation and Recreation Public Relations Manager Gary Waugh said. “There are no additional regulations that anyone has to have.”
The Virginia Citizens Defense League petitioned for the ability to carry firearms in Virginia’s state forests. VCDL President Philip Van Cleave is pleased with the new law.
“It’s important to be able to carry firearms [in state forests] because you never know when something can happen,” Van Cleave said. “I consider my life valuable everywhere, at all times and I don’t want anyone attacking me anywhere.”
But, members of another Virginia group, The Virginia Center for Public Safety, fought the new gun carry law.
“We feel that park rangers and state personnel are being put in danger and that hunting laws could be abused,” VCPS spokeswoman Lori Haas said. “It’s an unnecessary policy.”
Waugh said that despite the turnaround in the gun carry ban, everything at Virginia’s state forests is operating as usual.
“We already have had law enforcement in place for years,” Waugh said. “When this happened, we didn’t anticipate any changes.”
Waugh says that the parks and forests are having a “record attendance year” and that no one is talking about the change in the gun carry law.