A Virginia gun-rights group called on its members Monday to protest the decision to ban guns from George Washington's estate.
In an email to supporters, the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) asked its members to email and call senior staff of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association and urge them to reverse their decision to make the home of the nation's first president a gun-free zone. "George Washington is most certainly turning in his grave now that his beloved Mount Vernon has been turned into yet another dangerous 'gun-free zone' for all visitors," Philip Van Cleave, VCDL president, told the Washington Free Beacon. "It amazes me how little some know about criminal or terrorist behavior. It is not in the nature of either to obey laws, much less somebody's 'policy.' This policy should be reversed as an anathema to the very rights which Washington fought to protect."
The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, the private nonprofit which has owned and operated the Mount Vernon estate since 1860, said the change in policy was at the beginning of the year. A Free Beacon review of the archive for the group's prohibited items policy shows a language change occurred sometime between October 25, 2016 and January 22, 2017. The policy changed from prohibiting "weapons/firearms not in compliance with Virginia law" to prohibiting "weapons/firearms, except qualified law enforcement."
The change in language prohibits citizens with gun-carry permits that are valid in Virginia from carrying on Mount Vernon property.
"Like most (if not all) of the area's major tourist destinations, Mount Vernon prohibits firearms from the property," Melissa Wood, director of media relations for the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, told the Free Beacon. "The estate began implementing this policy on January 1, 2017. Mount Vernon employs a well-trained, armed security force that is dedicated to providing a safe environment for our guests. We do provide secure gun lockers for the storage of firearms during your visit. All qualified law enforcement professionals are permitted to bring firearms on the estate."
The organization elaborated further on the decision to ban guns from the estate in an email to one VCDL member saying legally armed citizens may cause "guest anxiety" and "dangerous confusion" during a potential incident on the property.
"Our decision to prohibit firearms on the estate was taken to limit risks to our visiting guests, lower guest anxiety, and to reduce any chance for dangerous confusion during a critical incident," Cheryl Marling, director of visitor engagement at Mount Vernon, told the VCDL member.
In 1790, Washington delivered his First Annual Message to Congress, in which he argued "a free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined" and encouraged Congress to take a number of steps to provide for the common defense.