Gun rights advocate will be prosecuted in Waterside case
By Harry Minium
© October 15, 2008
The city will prosecute a trespassing charge against Hampton resident Dan Moore after he was ordered to leave Waterside last week for wearing a gun on his hip, and according to police, refused to leave.
Although the retail complex has received millions of taxpayer dollars, it is a private institution that has the right to ban guns, City Attorney Bernard A. Pishko said.
In Virginia, it is legal to carry a handgun in public.
"Waterside is a commercial venture, with restaurants and shops," Pishko said. "This is not the kind of activity you would expect to find in a public building."
Moore, who has had several brushes with Norfolk police over his right to carry a gun, attended a City Council meeting on Oct. 8. He and members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League told the council that they were upset about how they were being treated by police.
Later that night, Moore and other members of the group were leaving a Waterside restaurant when they were stopped by an off-duty Norfolk police officer. They were all wearing guns. Moore was the only one arrested.
He is scheduled to appear in General District Court on Nov. 14. He could face up to a year in jail and a hefty fine if convicted of the misdemeanor.
Moore said Wednesday that he plans to contest the charge because Waterside is owned by taxpayers.
"The city is talking about tearing it down because it's not making enough money," he said. "There is no question that it is city property."
Moore also said the arresting officer told him that he could not carry a gun inside Waterside because it is a public place. However, he denies refusing to leave Waterside.
No judge will consider Waterside private property, said Philip Van Cleave, who heads the gun rights group. "The city has a big stake in that building. I think the city attorney is doing a lot of wishful thinking."
Twice before, Moore said he has been illegally stopped and questioned by Norfolk police. After the first incident a year ago, when he was detained while downtown, the city paid Moore $10,000 to avoid a lawsuit.
City officials say that although Moore and others who openly carry guns downtown are within their rights, they have done so brazenly in an attempt to attract attention. This time, Moore violated the law and his judgment "could end up costing him," Pishko said.
Pishko's office rarely sends attorneys to prosecute misdemeanors, but Pishko said they will handle this case because of its high profile nature and the precedent it could set.
Van Cleave said his group may help Moore pay for legal representation.
"He stood up to the city, and we certainly can't have that, can we?" Van Cleave asked sarcastically.
"Unfortunately, I've come to expect no less from Norfolk."
Harry Minium, (757) 446-2371, firstname.lastname@example.org