Another wave of support for the right to keep and bear arms swept across the state of Virginia on Tuesday, with five more counties and one town adopting Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions in the hopes of sending a message to lawmakers in Richmond, and sending the number of 2A Sanctuary communities in the state into the triple digits.
Supervisors in Matthews, Franklin, York, Prince Edward,and Stafford counties all approved sanctuary resolutions, as did the city council in Vinton, a town of about 8,000 in Roanoke County (which has already declared itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary). As has been the case for several weeks now, there were large crowds at virtually all of the meetings. In Matthews County on Tuesday afternoon dozens of people gathered outside the supervisors meeting because their simply was no room for them inside, while in Stafford County on Tuesday night close to 1,000 people stood in the rain and cold straining to hear what was happening inside the standing-room only meeting.
I was in Prince Edward County for their Second Amendment Sanctuary vote, which passed 5-3 in front of an alternately raucous and respectful crowd of around 600. Supervisors devoted a special meeting specifically to discuss the resolution, so there was no other business on the agenda. County supervisors limited testimony to residents of the county, and alternated hearing supporters and opponents of the resolution. Since there were only seven individuals in the crowd who wanted to speak out against the resolution, that meant only seven pro-resolution voices were heard.
Among them, a member of the Virginia National Guard who was speaking in his capacity as a private citizen. The young man received a standing ovation from the crowd when he urged supervisors to support the resolution, as did a retired law enforcement officer who recently moved to the county. My friend Kyle Morgan addressed the supervisors as well, telling them that though some of them may have viewed the resolution as meaningless, to the hundreds of people in attendance, having the backing of their local officials was incredibly important.
Supervisors in Prince Edward County were choosing between two resolutions. One declared the county to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary, and vowed to fight back against any unconstitutional gun laws, while the other expressed support for the Second Amendment and urged lawmakers to not pass any gun laws that would infringe on the rights of residents. Three supervisors voted for the watered-down language, while five supervisors supported the stronger Second Amendment Sanctuary language that was ultimately adopted.
There were a couple of common themes in the speeches from the opponents of the Second Amendment Sanctuary language. Several speakers described gun owners as being scared of a changing world and their place in it, which supposedly explains why they’re lashing out. That suggestion was actually met by laughter from most of the crowd. It’s true that many gun owners are scared and concerned about the change that Governor Ralph Northam and anti-gun politicians are about to inflict on the state, and they have every reason to be. Everybody should be fearful of change that restricts or inhibits the free exercise of an individual right, frankly.
The other talking point was something specific to Prince Edward County’s history. Several speakers made reference to the fact that between 1960 and 1965, Prince Edward County actually closed its public schools rather than integrate as the Supreme Court had ordered. In fact, the Brown v Topeka Board of Education case that led to the de-segregation of schools was actually a combination of several cases, including one challenging the segregated schools in Prince Edward County.
Massive Resistance, as the movement was called, was a shameful period of Virginia’s history, but it has nothing to do with today’s Second Amendment Sanctuary movement. Massive Resistance was about prohibiting the free exercise of a right, while the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is about protecting the free exercise of a right.
One speaker on Tuesday evening even claimed that Prince Edward County residents just need to follow whatever gun laws are passed, perhaps forgetting the fact that the civil rights movement was all about non-violent action that included willfully violating the Jim Crow laws of the south. It’s easy to say that people should just blindly follow the law until you realize that means Rosa Parks should have moved to the back of the bus, the students in Greensboro, North Carolina should never have set down at a drugstore counter and ask to be served, and in Farmville, Virginia, student Barbara Johns should never have led her fellow students to walk out of their school demanding the same educational opportunities as white students in the county.
The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is, at its heart, a civil rights movement. It’s about protecting and securing a constitutional right that is under assault by lawmakers in Richmond, and despite the objections of those politicians, the movement isn’t going away any time soon.