Diversion Eyed For Student In Rifle Case
Apr 13, 2006 -- Leesburg Police Lt. Jeff Dubé said a 17-year-old student who left an unloaded rifle in his truck in Loudoun County High School’s parking lot won’t be prosecuted for possessing a gun on school property and underage possession of alcohol if he completes a juvenile diversion program.
On March 27, school administrators received a tip that the student had the gun in his truck. In Virginia, it is not illegal for a student to bring a long gun, such as a rifle or shotgun, to school as long as it is secured inside a vehicle. Dubé said police found the gun behind the front seat, unsecured, which is against the law.
Full beer cans and ammunition were also found in the truck.
Although the student was suspended for 10 days, Dubé said the student would avoid prosecution by participating in a Juvenile Court Services program called Restorative Justice Program. The program is available to first-time nonviolent offenders.
The school system would not comment about any further discipline actions taken.
The incident caught the attention of gun rights advocates, such as Fairfax resident Mike Stollenwerk, who operates Opencarry.org. He said when the General Assembly amended the state school gun ban in 2003, its intent was to make sure high school students could secure unloaded rifles and shotguns in their cars “so students could go hunting or sport shooting after school.”
Virginia Code section 18.2-308.1 explains possession laws. In general, the code says guns on school grounds are illegal. But subsections of the same law state that the code does not apply when “a person who possesses an unloaded firearm that is in a closed container, or a knife having a metal blade, in or upon a motor vehicle, or an unloaded shotgun or rifle in a firearms rack in or upon a motor vehicle; or (vii) a person who has a valid concealed handgun permit and possesses a concealed handgun while in a motor vehicle in a parking lot, traffic circle, or other means of vehicular ingress or egress to the school. For the purposes of this paragraph, "weapon" includes a knife having a metal blade of three inches or longer and "closed container" includes a locked vehicle trunk.”
“Any gun owner could make a mistake and accidentally set foot or drive onto school grounds and have their whole lives ruined under 18.2-308,” Stollenwerk said.
Dubé said investigators questioned the student, who said he liked to shoot opossums. It was determined the student meant no harm by leaving the unloaded gun in his truck, Dubé said.
Possessing a handgun under the age of 18 is illegal, but those younger than 18 in Virginia are allowed to possess long guns, such as rifles. College campuses have a bit more freedom, according to a recent opinion from the Attorney General's Office.
“It is my opinion that the governing boards of Virginia’s public colleges and universities may not impose a general prohibition on the carrying of concealed weapons by permitted individuals,” the opinion states. “Pursuant to specific grants of statutory authority, however, it is my opinion that colleges and universities may regulate the conduct of students and employees to prohibit them from carrying concealed weapons on campus.”