I think strategically, this was a bad move by gun control advocates. If, as they claim, these Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions are meaningless, it would be far better to ignore them than attack the movement as a “fairy tale” led by “a traveling circus of AR-15 toting white men”, which is exactly what Lori Hass, the executive director of the Virginia Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has done in a column for the Roanoke Times newspaper. For something that’s supposedly not a threat to her gun control agenda, she sounds awfully bothered.
The handful of counties in Virginia that have passed these symbolic gestures are mostly rural, conservative areas. They have been bombarded with Van Cleave and his followers, armed to the teeth demanding sanctuary from policies that are supported by 90% of Virginia citizens. Requiring universal background checks or establishing an Extreme Risk Protection Order in Virginia will do nothing to infringe on the rights of law-abiding, responsible gun owners in the Commonwealth. All of the bills in the governor’s package presented this past summer have been upheld by courts across the country.
None of them have been upheld by the Supreme Court, though the Court certainly hasn’t heard every challenge to a gun law that’s come before it. More importantly, Haas is wrong when she says that universal background checks and a red flag law won’t infringe on the rights of legal gun owners. That’s exactly who these laws target. It’s criminals who illegally possess firearms that are ignored by virtually every one of Ralph Northam’s proposals.
Haas also conveniently leaves out bills that would turn Virginians into felons if they hang on to their semi-automatic rifles. As the National Shooting Sports Foundation points out:
Virginia Democrat State Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, who represents portions of Alexandria, Fairfax County and Falls Church, all suburbs of Washington D.C., sponsored S.B. 16, which would prohibit the sale, transfer and possession of so-called “assault firearms” and certain magazines. Violating the measure would be a state felony.
The text of the proposed legislation goes further than the states with the strictest of gun control laws. If passed, Virginia’s lawmakers would instantly turn lawful owners of America’s most popular-selling centerfire rifle into instant felons, unless they dispossess themselves of their legally purchased modern sporting rifle. There are way more than 16 million modern sporting rifles in private ownership in America. While the exact number of these popular rifles in Virginia isn’t known as state-specific estimates don’t exist, it’s important to note there is no proposed grandfather clause to exempt the likely several hundreds of thousands of rifles already in legal possession or even to register them.
Another bill by Saslaw would not only impose universal background checks in the state, but make it a crime for a parent to allow their minor child unsupervised access to a firearm, even in cases of self-defense and no matter how much training and education that parent may have provided.
These bills and others directly infringe on the right to keep and bear arms, and Haas is deluding herself and her readers by pretending otherwise. The simple fact is that anti-gun lawmakers are in complete control of the state for the first time in 26 years, and they’re bound and determined to make the most of their legislative majorities to attack the Second Amendment rights of Virginians, as Haas makes clear.
Now that commonsense has finally prevailed, the gun lobby is left with empty gestures and gimmicks. They are worried because change is coming to Virginia. The new gun violence prevention majority is going to pass laws that save lives and protect families in Virginia. They will be enforced and applied statewide and applicable to all Virginia citizens in every county. The reality is that these sanctuary declarations are not worth the piece of paper that they are printed on.
I have news for Lori Haas. She can’t decide what laws are enforced by county sheriffs, nor can she decide what cases get prosecuted by the local commonwealth’s attorney. Just as the new District Attorney in San Francisco has said he won’t be prosecuting certain crimes, sheriffs and prosecutors in Second Amendment Sanctuary counties can decide that these new gun control laws simply aren’t going to be a priority.
Even with Virginia’s Dillon Law, which says that local governments only have the powers expressly granted to them by the state legislature, prosecutors and sheriffs still have the discretion to decide how to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth. I think a more interesting question is what happens if sheriffs decide that they will not enforce a red flag gun confiscation order, and I imagine we won’t have long to wait to find out once a red flag bill is signed by Northam, most likely in early 2020.
Yes, these resolutions carry no force of law, but they do carry a message to legislators in Richmond; you can pass your unconstitutional laws, but that doesn’t mean you can enforce them. Lori Haas can huff, puff, and toss around insults all she wants, but she knows that the strength of this movement isn’t found in a piece of paper, but in the hearts and minds of those Virginians who are declaring their resistance to the attack on their right to keep and bear arms.