The incredible growth in the number of Second Amendment Sanctuary communities in Virginia is now drawing national press attention, but unfortunately the coverage we’re seeing, including a new story in USA Today, gets a lot of things wrong, starting with the fact that the paper buys in to the narrative put forth by gun control advocates that the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions are meaningless and won’t change anything when Virginia’s new anti-gun legislative majority rams through their new gun control laws.
“It’s mostly a political statement,” said Richard Schragger, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, who focuses on the intersection of the Constitution and local law.
Rather than challenging an existing statute, the resolutions are “mostly expressive and symbolic” declarations, he said.
“In Virginia, state law supersedes local law. Citizens and local officials have to comply with state law even if a county declares itself to be a Second Amendment sanctuary,” Schragger added.
There’s compliance, and then there’s enforcement. I don’t think you’ll see any counties adopt language that specifically says they won’t comply with state law. However, we’ve already seen a growing number of sheriffs and commonwealth’s attorneys who say they won’t be enforcing any unconstitutional gun laws. USA Today simply ignores that fact and focuses on the resolutions passed by city councils and county boards of supervisors.
“It’s taking a stand to protect your constitutional rights and sending a message to Richmond that we will not stand by and do nothing,” said Pam Carter, a local official in Augusta County, where the board of supervisors approved a resolution to become a Second Amendment sanctuary earlier this month.
Joyce Malcolm, a professor of constitutional law and the Second Amendment at George Mason University, said some of the gun restriction proposals could be challenged in court.
“You ought not to have to abide by something that is blatantly unconstitutional,” she said.
However, Schragger at UVA said similar regulations in other states have not been struck down as unconstitutional. “They are very standard and conventional gun regulations,” he said.
“Standard and conventional” doesn’t equate to “constitutional,” and Schragger is carrying water for gun control advocates when he says that similar regulations haven’t been struck down. The Supreme Court hasn’t actually ruled on any of the laws proposed by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, even those that have been adopted by other states, but there are numerous court cases that are currently winding their way through the legal system that challenge various gun and magazine bans, red flag laws, and raising the age limit to purchase firearms from 18 to 21.
Nick Suplina, managing director for law and policy at the anti-gun violence nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety, said he does not know of an example where enforcement of a state law was refused in practice.
“Legally, public officials may risk official immunity if they are refusing to enforce an action required by law,” he said.
In a statement to USA TODAY, Charlotte Gomer, press secretary for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, said his office expects all laws passed by the General Assembly will be followed.
“It’s not clear … what authority they think they have to preemptively opt-out of gun safety laws,” she said.
It’s rich to see a spokesman for Everytown for Gun Safety bash local officials for “refusing to enforce an action required by law” when the group is offering free legal services to cities like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that pass local gun control ordinances in violation of state firearms preemption laws. Apparently ignoring state law is okay with the gun control group, as long as officials are ignoring the law in order to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms, not defend it. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in August of this year:
Pittsburgh’s three gun-control ordinances will not be enforced until the court deems them legal, according to an order issued by an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge Monday.
All parties agreed to the stay during a Monday morning meeting held in Judge Joseph James’ chambers between city lawyers and legal counsel representing opponents of the laws.
“That’s consistent with the city’s goal all along, which is to put this in front of the court, let the courts decide whether these ordinances are permissible under Pennsylvania law,” said Eric Tirschwell, an attorney with gun-control advocacy organization Everytown Law who is representing the city pro bono. “The city is not looking to prejudice anyone while those decisions are made.”
Everytown Law is the litigation arm of the national Everytown for Gun Safety organization.
Of course USA Today doesn’t mention the glaring double standard by gun control groups. Instead, they harp on the idea that these Second Amendment Sanctuary counties can’t just ignore gun control laws.
In immigration sanctuary cities and states, local officials say they won’t comply with enforcement of immigration laws. The key difference is the laws in question are federal, says Schragger, whereas Second Amendment sanctuaries concern potential state laws.
“The federal government can’t force local officials to turn people over to immigration officials in the course of their policing duties,” he said. “In gun sanctuaries, that is not the case when the state is adopting laws that local officials are oath bound to enforce … Local officials are enforcing state law all the time.”
I’ve got bad news for Professor Schragger; localities ignore or choose not to enforce state law all the time. There are a number of prosecutors in major cities that have announced they will no longer prosecute low-level marijuana offenses, for example, despite the prohibitions remaining on the books. Maryland, for example, is a “Dillon Rule” state just like Virginia, but when Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced her office would not be prosecuting arrests for possession of marijuana, nobody accused her of being an insurrectionist.
Of course you didn’t read about that in the USA Today story on Second Amendment Sanctuary communities either. The anti-gun media has its narrative and they’re sticking to it.. just as tens of thousands of Virginians and dozens of communities are sticking to their guns.