Fairfax County employees can bring guns and ammo with them to work, as long as they leave them in their cars, but the workers are now questioning why they can't also leave crossbows, hunting knives and other weapons in cars and trucks they park on county premises.
The county is for the first time allowing employees to bring guns to work, only because the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year passed a law permitting public employees to keep firearms in locked vehicles. Visitors to county offices were already allowed to keep firearms in their cars.
But the new law doesn't specifically allow public employees to keep any other weapons in their vehicles. So county officials, who are currently updating their employee handbook to comply with the new state law, explicitly banned employees from transporting any weapon other than a gun onto county property. The change means an employee who hunts can bring his rifle to work, but not necessarily his hunting knife, employees said.
Randy Creller, chairman of the county's Employee Advisory Council, questioned how the county would distinguish exactly what was a weapon. Would it now be illegal for employees to carry self-protection devices like pepper spray and stun guns?
"Who deems what is and is not considered to be a weapon?" he asked. "We don't want to leave anything up to interpretation. The county has buildings all over, and some of them are in bad areas where employees who are entering and exiting the complex at night may want to carry something to defend themselves."
Creller also questioned why visitors, parked right next to employees in county parking lots, could have crossbows and other weapons in their cars but employees, who may want to go hunting after work, could not.
Supervisor Gerald Hyland, D-Mount Vernon, said Creller's concerns create "a real kink" in the county's current regulation.
"If an employee wants to go hunting after work, they can't keep a crossbow in their car, but they can have a gun?" Hyland said. "There seems to be a lack of consistency here."
Earlier this year, Del. Brenda Pogge, R-James City, helped lead a charge to pass the bill, designed to prevent localities from banning their employees from transporting firearms to work. Creller said the bill was "a direct response" to Fairfax prohibiting employees from storing guns in their cars and was meant to keep localities from being overly restrictive while the state continues to loosen its gun laws.
But county officials, who had banned guns altogether until now, say they remain concerned about workplace safety and whether the county could be held liable if something happens.
"The county is concerned about violence in the workplace, and I get that," Creller said. "But you can't prevent that [from happening], period."
Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova said she's willing to consider rewriting the country's regulations to allow employees to keep weapons other than guns in their vehicles, but isn't committing to a broader rule.