NPS: D.C. Gun Laws Apply on Columbia Island

U.S. Park Police-provided map of Columbia Island(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Last week, a pro-gun activist cancelled his planned open carry march from Arlington National Cemetery to the District of Columbia. The planned protest has prompted U.S. Park Police to remind the public that D.C. gun laws apply to certain portions of parkland adjacent the the Potomac River.

March organizer Adam Kokesh encouraged supporters to join him on July 4 in publicly carrying loaded rifles during the march, which he dubbed a “non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent.” It was scheduled to begin at Arlington National Cemetery, and then continue over the Memorial Bridge into various parts of the District before returning to Arlington.

As widely reported, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier promised to enforce the District’s strict stringent laws, which ban the carrying of loaded weapons. Lanier suggested police might even meet the marchers at the District line. Last week organizers cancelled the march.

Yesterday, U.S. Park Police sent out a reminder that certain parcels of land along the George Washington Memorial Parkway that appear to be in Virginia — such as Theodore Roosevelt Island and Columbia Island, which includes LBJ Memorial Grove, Lady Bird Johnson Park and the Columbia Island marina — are actually in the District. Therefore, D.C. gun laws apply there.

As seen on the USPP-provided map (above), Columbia Island extends from just below the Roosevelt Bridge to the Humpback Bridge. From the press release:

The proposed “Open Carry March on Washington” that was being organized by Adam Kokesh to occur on July 4, 2013, has been cancelled by him.

The United States Park Police… want[s] to make sure the public is aware that portions of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP) is located in the District of Columbia, and that their firearm laws applies there.

Theodore Roosevelt and Columbia Islands are located in the District of Columbia. While most of the GWMP is located in Virginia, both the Theodore Roosevelt Island and Columbia Island is actually located in the District of Columbia. A good rule of thumb for Columbia Island, which includes the LBJ Memorial Grove, Lady Bird Johnson Park and Columbia Island marina, is that it surrounded by the Potomac River to the east and Boundary Channel to the west. The following are various access points that lead to Theodore Roosevelt and Columbia Islands in the District of Columbia:

  • The foot bridge leading on to Theodore Roosevelt Island from the parking lot off of the GWMP southbound.
  • Northbound GWMP and the Mt. Vernon Trail in the area of Humpback Bridge to Theodore Roosevelt Island.
  • Ramp to Rt. 50 from northbound GWMP to Columbia Island.
  • Memorial Avenue to Columbia Island.
  • Southbound GWMP south of Theodore Roosevelt Island to Humpback Bridge.
  • Boundary Channel Dr. @ Rt. 27 to Columbia Island.
  • LBJ Memorial Grove footbridge (leading from the Pentagon parking lot) to Columbia Island.

District of Columbia firearms laws apply on Theodore Roosevelt and Columbia Islands. Before entering Theodore Roosevelt and Columbia Islands, people need to know that they are located in the District of Columbia. This is important because since February 22, 2010, 16 USC 1a-7b generally provides that people can legally possess firearms if they are in compliance with the law of the State in which the park area is located.

It remains the responsibility of visitors to understand and comply with all applicable state, local, and federal firearms laws. For example, D.C. Code 22-4504(a-1) provides that “[e]xcept as otherwise permitted by law, no person shall carry within the District of Columbia a rifle or shotgun.” While there are a number of public sources to locate the firearms laws, the GWMP’s website at www.nps.gov/gwmp/parkmgmt/firearms.htm has hyperlinks to the firearm laws of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Parkland located in Arlington, meanwhile, is subject to the following Virginia gun laws.

18.2-287.4. Carrying loaded firearms in public areas prohibited; penalty.

It shall be unlawful for any person to carry a loaded (a) semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense with a magazine that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock or (b) shotgun with a magazine that will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered on or about his person on any public street, road, alley, sidewalk, public right-of-way, or in any public park or any other place of whatever nature that is open to the public in the Cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, or Virginia Beach or in the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Henrico, Loudoun, or Prince William.

The provisions of this section shall not apply to law-enforcement officers, licensed security guards, military personnel in the performance of their lawful duties, or any person having a valid concealed handgun permit or to any person actually engaged in lawful hunting or lawful recreational shooting activities at an established shooting range or shooting contest. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

§ 18.2-282. Pointing, holding, or brandishing firearm, air or gas operated weapon or object similar in appearance; penalty. —

A. It shall be unlawful for any person to point, hold or brandish any firearm or any air or gas operated weapon or any object similar in appearance, whether capable of being fired or not, in such manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another or hold a firearm or any air or gas operated weapon in a public place in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another of being shot or injured. However, this section shall not apply to any person engaged in excusable or justifiable self-defense. Persons violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor or, if the violation occurs upon any public, private or religious elementary, middle or high school, including buildings and grounds or upon public property within 1,000 feet of such school property, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.

B. Any police officer in the performance of his duty, in making an arrest under the provisions of this section, shall not be civilly liable in damages for injuries or death resulting to the person being arrested if he had reason to believe that the person being arrested was pointing, holding, or brandishing such firearm or air or gas operated weapon, or object that was similar in appearance, with intent to induce fear in the mind of another.

C. For purposes of this section, the word “firearm” means any weapon that will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel single or multiple projectiles by the action of an explosion of a combustible material. The word “ammunition,” as used herein, shall mean a cartridge, pellet, ball, missile or projectile adapted for use in a firearm.


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