"Pneumatic weapons" - from paintball guns to pellet guns that shoot at 1,000 feet per second -- have long been treated as regular firearms under Fairfax County's code. Their use is generally prohibited in heavily populated areas and near schools and highways.
Under a new state law, however, the county must change its ordinances to allow air guns "on private property if the person shooting has permission of the owner or legal possessor of the property on which the pneumatic gun is being used." Permission is also needed from the owner of the land on which the ammunition is expected to land.
The state law does not allow counties to make special exceptions if the private property is next to a school or near a busy road.
The law was sponsored by Sen. Roscoe Reynolds, D-Martinsville, who represents a rural, southwestern portion of the state. It easily passed the General Assembly earlier this year.
Fairfax officials had opposed Reynolds' bill, but since it passed the county had no choice but to change its own code.
The county's Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing on the new law on June 21. Comments from the public will be forwarded to the state, said a county spokesman. The change will go into effect July 1.
"I don't think this will be well received," said Supervisor John Foust, D-Dranesville. "Our houses are much closer together, and our communities are much more dense than in much of the state. Neighbors would be justifiably concerned if someone is shooting weapons next door to them."