F.C. Council Backs Moran Gun Control Bill, Security Fence Around 2 Schools

Safety Push Adds Stiff School Bus Violation Fines

The Falls Church Public Schools and City Council worked in part separately and in part in tandem Monday night to begin implementation of major new security and gun control advocacy efforts, coming one month after the mass killings of children in Newtown, Connecticut.

In what were all unanimous votes from the often-sharply divided Council tonight, a resolution to formally support Rep. Jim Moran’s Gun Safety Act (HR 21) in Congress was passed, and then funding approval for requests from the School Board to spend $200,000 on a fence around the George Mason High School and Henderson Middle School campus was OK’d to commence immediately.

While the Council’s most outspoken gun control member, Vice Mayor David Snyder, was not present due to business travel obligations, presented a written statement saying, “I could not be more supportive of Rep. Moran’s and others’ efforts to enact sensible gun related regulation.”

Then, in a statement issued to the News-Press after President Obama announced new gun control initiatives yesterday, Snyder wrote, “President Obama has proposed a comprehensive approach to begin to deal with the tragic, out of control gun violence that sets up apart from the rest of the developed world. As a citizen and public official, we should move rapidly to implement all of his proposals.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Moran released a letter he wrote to Vice President Biden and his Gun Violence Task Force calling for a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, increased reporting requirements of mental health records to the NICS background check database, improvements to mental health systems and five reforms that, he said, are supported by two-thirds of NRA members, including requiring background checks on all gun purchases and gun shop employees, preventing individuals on the terrorist watch lists from purchasing firearms, requiring the reporting of lost or stolen firearms, and establishing minimum standards for concealed carry licenses.

In other security-related developments Monday night, Falls Church School Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones told the Council that she’d contracted with the highly-regarded Securitas, Inc. for non-armed security experts to be deployed at the entrances to the Jefferson and Mt. Daniel elementary schools through the end of this school year.

She announced there would be a “lock down drill” held next week.

Four parents of students in the Falls Church system were present to speak in support of heightened security measures, including Carole Jeandheur, Lisa Young, Christine Lee Buchholz and and Stephanie Oppenheimer.

Another student safety move not related to the threat of gun violence involved the Council giving unanimous approval to a measure that would implement $250 fines for motorist violations of school bus signals to stop for students getting on off of school buses throughout the City. A video system would be used to identify violators, and Dr. Jones reported tonight that an astonishing 65 violations per day were identified over a three-day test period in November.

It was also noted that there were 7,000 such violations in a single day reported in the State of Maryland recently.

“This is a really serious issue, given how people seem to be driving so stressed out these days,” City Councilman Ira Kaylin said Monday. “A $250 fine is a great tranquilizer.” Council Phil Duncan agreed, saying the problem is of “preposterous” proportions, that extrapolating from 65 violations a day would generate over $900,000 dollars.

Any net revenues from the fines would be split (in a proportion to be determined) between the City and the Schools.

Kaylin used the need for immediate action to better secure the schools to also pitch for security improvements needed at City Hall and the library. That subject will arise again tonight, Thursday, Jan.17, when the City Council and School Board convene a joint meeting at the Dogwood Room at City Hall to discuss a 20-year facilities plan.

At that time, the subject of either upgrading existing facilities or making some major shifts — such as to move Mt. Daniel from its present location on 10 acres (only seven of which are useable) in Fairfax County to the current location of the Falls Church City Hall, and the relocation of City Hall to a new public-private partnership mixed use structure downtown — would be preferred.