Roanoke, VA Sued Over Vaguely Defined 'Gun-Free Zones'

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

Gun control laws aren’t good, but if you’re going to have them, they need to be as clear and precise as humanly possible.

Vagueness can lead to some to break the law without intending to, which creates all kinds of problems for everyone involved.


In Roanoke, for example, they’ve got a law on the books that seems pretty vague. They probably have a few, but this one involves the lawful carry of firearms.

See, they have a local ordinance that prohibits the lawful carry of a gun in certain public places, including any event that requires a permit. The issue is that the law goes beyond just that, and that’s where the vagueness comes in.

The City of Roanoke is being sued. Local gun rights activist groups say the city’s gun law risks their personal safety. The lawsuit was filed by several gun groups, which claim Roanoke’s ordinance is unclear and it violates the Virginia Constitution.

Roanoke’s gun ordinance was passed by the city council in 2021, banning guns in any city buildings, parks, rec centers or any public streets. It also says guns are not permitted in any place of “whatever nature that is open to the public and adjacent to an event that will require a permit.”

Local gun rights activists say the ordinance doesn’t define how distant the location has to be and that it’s unclear if “open to the public” applies to businesses that are open to the public.

“That could mean any store, even a gun store could suddenly become a place you couldn’t have guns, which makes no sense,” said Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave, one of the groups filing the lawsuit, which is also being brought by the organization Gun Owners of America and a few others.

It’s a valid concern, even if some might want to downplay it.


After all, “open to the public” can mean a lot of things, and gun stores are, in fact, open to the public, even if they’re actually private property.

Couple that with the lack of clarity on how far away a location has to be and you could, in theory, see things like gun stores get cited for having guns despite any other factor, just because someone got a permit for an event too close to them.

Hell, I could see some anti-gunners intentionally getting permits within range of gun stores just to get them in trouble.

And, frankly, the fact that public streets are included in the law bothers me, too. It essentially bars any and all travel with a firearm that’s not in a privately-owned vehicle.

Couple that with the rest of this nonsense and you’ve got a trainwreck of a gun control law, even by the standards of gun control.

Obviously, I sincerely hope this challenge is successful and this heinous law is overturned. Roanoke has no business restricting the lawful carry of firearms at all, but especially not like this. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and this is treading all over our Second Amendment rights.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member