Handgun Owner Forced Out at Workhouse Fireworks Event

Management issues public apology on Patch for incident Saturday.

Fireworks at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, July 6, 2013.
Fireworks at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, July 6, 2013.
Lorton's Workhouse Arts Center has apologized for asking an armed woman to leave the property at its annual fireworks show Sat., July 6. 

The popular annual event was attended by over 2,500 visitors on Saturday, but the experience of one attendee led to a complaint and apology playing out on the Lorton Patch Facebook page.

See: Fireworks at the Workhouse Arts Center

Mount Vernon's Tess Ailshire was at the event with her husband and son. She was also openly carrying a Bersa 9mm.  

"I got up to get a sno cone and went back to sit down," Ailshire told Patch. "I noticed that there was staff walking around like they were looking for someone. I joked with my husband that they were looking for me." 

Ailshire was asked to leave the property. 

"I just want them to tell me that it's not going to happen again, because it's county-funded, and because of state preemptive laws they can not prevent firearms out there," she said. 

High-profile public shootings in recent years has elevated the debate over gun access. Virginia law allows individuals to carry handguns in public.

John Mason, President and CEO of the Workhouse, issued this apology on the Lorton Patch Facebook page: 

"On behalf of the Lorton Arts Foundation, Inc., I am using this method (as I do not have access to the "open carry" forum) to extend our apologies for having inappropriately stated that weapons are not permitted on the Workhouse Arts Center campus. Our policy is to be consistent with Commonwealth of Virginia law, which under the circumstances would not have prohibited you from carrying a weapon last Saturday evening. Would appreciate your sharing this note with "open carry" forum so all interested understand that I have acknowledged a mistake."

Northern Virginia was also in the national spotlight on gun carrying rules in March. Prince William County Police Officers carrying guns were refused service at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Manassas because of the chain's rule against weapons. The restaurant manager later apologized for the incident.

Tell us in the comments what you think about gun laws in Virginia.

John Weinrich July 09, 2013 at 04:53 PM
I would agree that this is not a simple mistake. This is an abuse of power violating her rights. How about this, when someone in power abuses one's right to carry a firearm, that person should buy and install the following sign on the property at all entrances, with their own money: http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/13355828/Sign1.jpg
T Ailshire July 09, 2013 at 05:50 PM
Joanne, thank you for the support. As a point of clarification, Virginia doesn't have an open carry permit. Any person who is legally authorized to own a firearm may carry openly; a permit is required for concealed carry.
Enoch July 10, 2013 at 09:47 AM
Well, I'm speculating, but I'm sure that who ever made the call to ask this person to leave did so because they got complaints - and I might have been one of the people complaining. I am all for gun ownership, but branding a weapon in public is way over the top for me, especially for people not use to being around guns. For me it would generate unwanted tension. I think it's perfectly fine to carrying guns in public, but their is no need to do it openly - at a family event. Do it at Mardi Gras, or Sturgess, but a 4th of July firework event?
Jana July 10, 2013 at 10:18 AM
If the law allows it then it was wrong to ask her to leave. The idea of carrying a gun to a family fireworks event blows my mind - why was that necessary? Just because you can do something doesnt mean you should.
MSGLAIGAIE July 10, 2013 at 11:52 AM
Enoch, Jana, So, you think carrying a weapon is OK as long as YOU don't have to see it. (see Hoplophobe) You logic fails me. Should I complain about pedophiles in the room because men have penises? Should I call police because your red shirt hurts my eyes? She was not breaking the law, she was following it. I, too, openly carry a firearm, well holstered on my hip, everywhere I go. The bank, the grocery store, when I walk my two little dogs, I wear a side arm visible to the public. I, like this brave young lady, will not be a victim. Not by a "bad guy" or by "bad government".
Enoch July 10, 2013 at 12:49 PM
@MSGLAIGAIE - yes exactly, carrying a weapon to a family event is OK FOR ME, as long as I do not see it. I think it's plain old common courtesy to not display your weapon EVERYWHERE you go. It makes me uneasy and is unnecessary distraction at a family event. And I agree with Jana, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
JAMIE July 10, 2013 at 01:01 PM
It also should not be ther burden of law abiding citizens excercising their rights becasue it makes you uneasy due to the bad perception that guns have been given to to media exposure. We never talk about the millions of people who on a daily basis carry weapon seither open or concealed that do not kill any one. Just the few crazies that do. So if it makes me uneasy to see a woman breast feed in publis should we now dicatate that she can no longer do that. Where does it all stop. There will alway sbe certain things in life that will make you uneasy. We cant get rid of them all or we will have nothing left.
John Weinrich July 10, 2013 at 01:40 PM
It makes me uneasy that there are those around me that ARE uneasy about my open carry sidearm! I swear there should be firearms training in high school so that don't have these "uneasy" folks. I, like many open carry folks open carry several reasons. My number one is to protect myself and my family, Number 2 would be to protect those around me, friends or strangers. Number 3 to deter crime. Many crimes are averted just because the bad guy saw a gun on an armed citizen. Number 4 to promote sidearms for protection. If you feel uncomfortable and don't want to overcome that fear I would suggest Britian as a good place for you to live. If you would like to overcome this fear there are lots of training courses you can take. I personally would be glad to work with you to overcome your fear.
Jim Landerkin July 10, 2013 at 01:53 PM
@Enoch: First, I suspect you meant "brandishing," not "branding." In either case, Tess was not "brandishing" her firearm. It was properly holstered and not being waved about in an effort to induce fear. Second, those of us who openly carry are not responsible for your emotions -- that's something you have to deal with, not us. Each of us must deal with our own irrational fears.
Lori July 10, 2013 at 02:02 PM
Jana and Enoch, you have every right to be uncomfortable with an open carry. However, you don't have the right to request a law abiding citizen to leave the premise or decide what events she can carry the gun. You can leave the event if you are uncomfortable. That is your right.
Ben Madrid July 10, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Why would anyone bring a gun to a FAMILY event? If there was a shooter there, it's not as though you'd actually want to protect your family from being murdered, right?
Jim Landerkin July 10, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Careful, Ben ... some on here might not understand sarcasm...
JAMIE July 10, 2013 at 03:55 PM
plus what standard would we even use to determine what consititues a FAMILY EVENT if there were such a restriction. Everyone has there own idea of what is or isnt. Jsut lik evegas is tryign to reinvent itself somewhet to be a family destination. who is to say wha tis or isnt. PLus there are many families in this country that are very gun oriented. That does not make them bad people and should not restrict where they can or can not go when abiding by the law. This is why we have laws voted in by the whole of the people instead of being determined by a small minority in authority positions.
John Weinrich July 10, 2013 at 04:00 PM
Thanks Jim, I was about to let into him... There are those out there that actually think that a "Gun Free Zone" sign will prevent a gun crime and that a criminal would never attack someone at a family event. Hmmm, I wonder why they usually have the police at these type of events?
JAMIE July 10, 2013 at 04:10 PM
And knowing it is a gun free zone makes it easier for an attack to happen as they have less fear of beig stopped. Take Gun Kennesaw Georgia for example. Knowing guns are around to defend against crime changes what criminals will do. " Ownership Mandatory In Kennesaw, Georgia Crime Rate Plummets by Chuck Baldwin The New American magazine reminds us that March 25th marked the 16th anniversary of Kennesaw, Georgia's ordinance requiring heads of households (with certain exceptions) to keep at least one firearm in their homes. The city's population grew from around 5,000 in 1980 to 13,000 by 1996 (latest available estimate). Yet there have been only three murders: two with knives (1984 and 1987) and one with a firearm (1997). After the law went into effect in 1982, crime against persons plummeted 74 percent compared to 1981, and fell another 45 percent in 1983 compared to 1982. And it has stayed impressively low. In addition to nearly non-existent homicide (murders have averaged a mere 0.19 per year), the annual number of armed robberies, residential burglaries, commercial burglaries, and rapes have averaged, respectively, 1.69, 31.63, 19.75, and 2.00 through 1998."
Tricia July 10, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Considering that a little boy was killed by a bullet at a fireworks event near Richmond just two days earlier, I have to say that carrying a firearm to the Workhouse fireworks was insensitive to say the least.
Jim Landerkin July 10, 2013 at 04:49 PM
So.... if a little boy had been hit and killed by a drunk driver, would it have been "insensitive" to have driven a car to the event? How can you conflate an illegal act (firing into the air) with the legal act of safely and responsibly carrying a means of self defense?
JAMIE July 10, 2013 at 04:59 PM
and in our world of 24 hour news from all over the world we can spend all our time being sensitive to every tragedy everywhere or we would never do anything but stand around being sensitive and sympathetic. It might be something to say a little sensitivity was in order if it was something in the local neighborhodd but this happened an hour and a half away. But regardless of distance I agree with Jim, an illegal act should not be compared to a legal one.
Tricia July 10, 2013 at 05:10 PM
First of all, I just happened to grow up "an hour and a half" from here and I have a son who is of the same age. So that incident hit home. Perhaps I should take my kind pitbull to visit the lady who was just mauled by one?
JAMIE July 10, 2013 at 05:24 PM
So because it happened to hit home for you everyone else who, may have no connection to the event in any way and may not hav eeven heard about it, should be deemed insensitive becasue they did not do what you felt appropriate. Your pitbull comparison makes no sense as this was not someone taking a gun to visit the family who lost the child. it was someone exercising their rights at a public event. And I would say if it did not go against any rule or law you would be within your rights to bribg the dog to the event jsut he same even though i personally dont care for pitbulls.
Richard Kroh July 10, 2013 at 05:57 PM
To those of you who think Tess needs a reason to carry! She is her son's bodyguard.
John Weinrich July 10, 2013 at 05:57 PM
What kind of twisted logic one has to think that it is insensitive to open carry a firearm to a public event when someone was accidentally killed by a stray bullet? I certainly do not agree with shooting into the air, it is illegal, to be sure. So what is the distance from this death one has to be before it is "acceptable" to open carry? And, gee, what if I one didn't happen to catch the news about the boy's death? The equating of a legally armed citizen with and accidental death is silly.
John Weinrich July 10, 2013 at 08:54 PM
Hmmm, will those that complained at the event be at least partially responsible for this rights violation? I see this as a Second Amendment right violation. Imagine if the Mr. Mason told all those at the event that they could not talk about or post about the event (first Amendment rights violation)...
Tricia July 10, 2013 at 10:30 PM
The problem is that in Virginia there is no way to know the difference between a lawful and careful gun owner from an unlawful or reckless gun owner. As people have said, you do not need a permit to carry a gun in Virginia. Nor is it illegal to carry a gun while intoxicated, although it is illegal to drive a car while intoxicated. I do question why someone would feel the need to carry a gun to a community fireworks event. Why the need to carry a lethal weapon to a family event where there were lots of police? It seems to me that by carrying a firearm you are publically judging those around you and assuming that someone is out to do you harm. However, you chastise those who question your judgment by saying that we have no right to assume that you are not law abiding gun owners. Ironic to say the least. In 2010, Virginia had 875 firearms fatalities compared to 728 motor vehicle deaths. Gun rights activist would say that is comparing apples to oranges comparison. So let’s look at DUI fatalities versus homicides and accidental deaths (not suicide) – 274 compared to 284 (271 homicides and 13 accidental deaths). Still there are more gun deaths, which is especially sobering when you know far more people drive cars than own guns. Responsible gun ownership isn’t about flaunting your rights, it is about making responsible decisions, not just for yourself, but for those around you as well.
T Ailshire July 11, 2013 at 07:28 AM
First, you are incorrect. It *IS* illegal to carry a gun while intoxicated (Code of Virginia § 18.2-308.012 You tell a lawful gun owner from another by his actions. Pure and simple. I am not assuming someone is out to do me harm. In the UNLIKELY event someone is, I'm prepared to defend myself and my family. Bottom line: I *did* make a responsible decision. I chose to carry my personal defensive sidearm against the unlikely event that I would need it to protect my family. That is no more irresponsible than wearing a seatbelt, or keeping a fire extinguisher handy, or carrying a first-aid kit.
John Weinrich July 11, 2013 at 08:04 AM
Tricia, thanks for a rational response. Usually we get the knee jerk response that is irrational and very emotional and poses no real basis. As Tess posted, one cannot carry and BE intoxicated. Although the law does allow one to drink and carry, relying on ones PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to stop before one gets intoxicated. As to bad guy vs good guy, have you ever seen or heard a bad guy carry openly to and at an event and then commit his/her deed? No! You can easily use the method that the police use. When a MWAG (Man With A Gun) call is made the police show up (because they are required to) and observe the MWAG. They make a judgement like you or me. Sometimes when they find it difficult to detrmine the state of the MWAG they will go over to the MWAG and strike up a conversation. Would you have done that with Tess? I can tell you that you would have had a wonderful conversation. Tess, like most if not all open carry folks are very friendly, articulate, and knowledgeable. Not only do they have to put up with Second Amendment oppression but also have to learn the law to nth degree. On you second point about gun deaths, we get this type of response all the time, stating so called statistics. You are correct about apple/oranges. Many believe that homicides are going to happen regardless of the weapon used. Rarely does one go out to kill someone with a car. Here is a statistic that the main stream media will not publish: 2.5 million deaths are prevented with a gun each year by lawfully armed citizens. I we don't usually think of paying for our freedom outside of war but the reality is that many gun deaths are exactly that. Our freedom to protect ourselves and to maintain that freedom from our government is being paid by (to some degree) by those homicides...
Sarah Sertic July 11, 2013 at 10:39 AM
This to me is unfortunately not shocking. People act first and think about the consequences later, especially when it comes to guns. I completely agree that this was uncalled for, she had the constitutional right to bear arms. It is also wonderful to see people so articulately discuss about the carrying of guns in public. I really hope that she gets a good resolution to this.
Sly Jackson July 11, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Just asking for clarification. Does the VA law allow you to opening carry your weapon will being loaded? I thought I was required to transport my weapons unloaded. This obviously does not apply inside establishments but outside in public areas? As I assume (not always right) that you can't openly carry your weapon into a store or business unless you are an officer, security guard etc.? Thanks for your feedback
Jim Landerkin July 11, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Virginia law does not *allow* you to openly carry a firearm. Rather, the Commonwealth of Virginia has no law restricting the open carrying of a loaded firearm by non-prohibited people. (Prohibited people = felons, those under a restraining order, etc.) Since there is no law against it, you have the right to do so. You may transport a loaded handgun in your car either openly (as on the seat beside you) or in a secured container (e.g., the center console or glove box). You can openly carry your firearm into any store or business that does not prohibit such carry, but that is the decision of the business' owner, not Commonwealth law. More information is available at opencarry.org, in the Virginia forum.
Sly Jackson July 11, 2013 at 12:50 PM
@Jim- Thanks for the education and link.


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