The wave of support for the Second Amendment continues unabated in Virginia, even as Governor Ralph Northam is trying to tamp down the energy by offering up a slight concession to gun owners in the form of a grandfather clause in his proposed gun ban. Thirteen more counties and cities across the state adopted Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions on Monday, and more than two dozen localities and counties are set to discuss or vote on their own resolutions today.
According to the Virginia Citizens Defense League, the following communities all passed resolutions on Monday:
- Bedford County
- Buckingham County
- Town of Crewe
- City of Franklin
- Town of Grottoes
- King and Queen County
- Mecklenburg County
- Rocky Mount
- Shenandoah County
I was in Buckingham County for Monday evening’s vote, along with several hundred other gun owners and Second Amendment supporters. County supervisors ended up voting on the resolution before taking public comment, which caused the crowd to thin out considerably after the board unanimously approved the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution, but those who remained spoke out on both sides of the issue.
The vast majority of speakers were supportive of the board’s decision, but there were at least three individuals who opposed the resolution, stating that “commonsense” gun control laws were needed to protect children and reduce violence. One individual asked the Buckingham supervisors to amend the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution to add in language supporting “reasonable” measures to improve public safety, but the board declined to do so.
The chairman of the board of supervisors went out of his way to tell the assembled crowd that the resolution was “largely symbolic”, quoting from a recent column in the Farmville Herald by local state Senator Matt Fariss.
We still don’t know what the Democrats will pass and what the governor will sign, but they have made it very clear that they want to infringe on our rights in a significant way.
That being said, it’s important to realize that Virginia is a Dillon Rule state. That means local governments can’t override state laws.
That makes these resolutions symbolic but no less important. Counties are sending a very clear message to Democrats in Richmond that the public has no appetite for overreach regarding our Second Amendment.
How these yet-to-be-passed laws will be enforced falls to our local constitutional officers- specifically our commonwealth’s attorneys and sheriffs. In most counties, the sheriffs department determines how laws will be enforced.
Senator Farris is correct in noting that the actual enforcement of the laws is done by sheriffs and commonwealth’s attorneys, but he should also have pointed out that we’re starting to see several officials speak out publicly and say they will not enforce unconstitutional gun laws in their county, even if that means deputizing thousands of citizens. While Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, even under the Dillon Rule law enforcement has discretion in enforcing state statutes, and county sheriffs can decide they’re not going to arrest individuals for violations of any unconstitutional gun laws, just as commonwealths attorneys can decide they’re not going to prosecute any cases brought to them for violations of the gun control laws that anti-gun politicians are planning to put on the books.
It’s clear to me that some county supervisors in the state really don’t want this fight, but whether they want it or not, we’re in it. Instead of talking about how their vote is largely symbolic, these officials need to be assuring their constituents that they stand ready to defend their rights, not just through a resolution, but through litigation as well.
Meanwhile, gun owners can’t rest once their county has passed a resolution declaring a Second Amendment Sanctuary within its borders. We need to be talking to our local sheriffs and commonwealth’s attorneys and get them on the record in defense of our right to keep and bear arms, making plans to attend the Lobby Day at the state capitol in Richmond on January 20th, 2020, and preparing for the long legislative and legal battles ahead.