Starting this month, Virginians can openly, and legally, carry guns into state parks. The change in state regulation comes after years of debate about whether Virginians should be allowed to carry their handguns on hiking trails or leave their shotguns inside their parked vehicles while they go swimming with the family.
Although the new state rule officially took effect this month, the Department of Conservation and Recreation stopped enforcing the decades-old gun ban a year and a half ago. DCR spokesman Gary Waugh says it’s been business as usual ever since.
“We have not seen any increase in people carrying guns. We’ve had no complaints from non-gun carrying folks about others being there. Attendance continues rise. Virginia state parks remain a very safe and enjoyable place to spend time with the family,” said Waugh.
Lori Haas with the Virginia Center for Public Safety says she supports the safe use of guns for hunting or sport, but there is no reason for Virginians to bring a gun with them to a state park.
“It isn’t a problem until it is. There are people who you or I would look on or the general public would look on and say oh no they’re not a danger. And then one day they break, one day they crack. One day they get angry. One day they make a bad judgment call. And guess what, firearms are lethal,” said Haas.
Haas says trained law enforcement should be the only ones carrying guns in the state’s parks.