I’ve been to almost a dozen boards of supervisors meetings over the past month as local politicians have wrestled with Second Amendment Sanctuary votes, and I’ve never seen anything like what I witnessed in Amelia County, Virginia last night.
A month ago, I showed up on a chilly November evening to the Amelia County supervisors meeting because I heard there were going to be some folks asking supervisors to vote on a 2A Sanctuary resolution. When I arrived, there were hundreds of people outside the small meeting room in the courthouse where the supervisors were meeting, and the crowd cheered when they heard the news that the board would consider a resolution at their meeting on December 18th.
A much larger crowd was on hand Wednesday evening at the Amelia County High School, where supervisors had moved the meeting to handle the 800 or so people who showed up to show their support for a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution. Instead of seeing that support reciprocated, however, residents were suckered by supervisors who approved a watered-down resolution in a confusing process that left those in attendance unable to speak their mind or even really understand the language that supervisors approved.
— Cam Edwards (@CamEdwards) December 19, 2019
First, public comment was limited to items that were not on the board’s agenda, which meant that no one could speak in support of or opposition to the Second Amendment resolution that was offered.
After the non-2A public comments concluded, an Amelia County supervisor offered a motion to approve a resolution, which was read to the crowd. I didn’t see any printed copies available, and the sound kept cutting out, so it was difficult for many in the crowd to hear. I listened closely, however, and heard no mention of the phrase “Second Amendment Sanctuary.”
Instead, the resolution simply expressed to the state legislature the county’s opposition to any unconstitutional gun laws. There was no language about refusing to spend county funds on the enforcement of any unconstitutional gun laws, nor was there any expression of support for the sheriff or commonwealth’s attorney to use their discretion when it comes to the enforcement of unconstitutional gun laws.
Immediately after the resolution had been read, another supervisor offered up his own comments about this being the most important issue the board has ever voted on, and vowed his personal opposition to any new gun control laws offered up in Richmond. Still no mention of the phrase “Second Amendment Sanctuary.”
Then, to cheers from the crowd, the board voted 5-0 to approve the watered down resolution, before taking a brief recess.
During that recess, I spoke to Amelia County’s board chairman, Thomas Gleason, and asked why the resolution passed by supervisors didn’t contain any language declaring the county to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary. He told me that the board had looked at language from a number of different counties, and all agreed on the language adopted Wednesday evening.
I specifically asked if there had been any discussion about the phrase “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” and he told me that every word of the resolution had been discussed by supervisors, and again, they all agreed on the content of the resolution. Gleason went on to say he believes that the language used in the resolution satisfies the concerns of gun owners in the county. I disagree.
I followed up by asking Gleason if there was any concern about the Second Amendment Sanctuary language going too far for supervisors, and he indicated that was indeed something that weighed on the minds of supervisors.
Fair enough, but what was unfair was the fact that board didn’t talk about any of this with the residents who showed up to support a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution. They didn’t offer two versions of the resolution, with one designating the county as a Second Amendment Sanctuary and one expressing more general support for the Second Amendment. That’s what supervisors in Prince Edward County did on Tuesday evening. Amelia County supervisors, on the other hand, didn’t inform the public that this was not a true Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution, and they didn’t allow the public to comment before or afterwards.
I’ve covered dozens of city council, school board, and county commissioner/supervisors meetings in my time as a reporter; enough to know when elected officials are pulling a fast one on their constituents. In my opinion, that’s exactly what I saw on Wednesday evening in Amelia County.
I believe I saw county officials who hoped to appease their constituents and not tick off lawmakers in Richmond, and they did a great job of managing the meeting and sending everyone home happy. What they did not do was approve the resolution that citizens were demanding. They weren’t open and transparent about how they arrived at the language in the resolution, nor did they allow for any debate or discussion about the text of the resolution itself. I believe they simply wanted this issue to go away as quickly as possible, and I suspect that they wanted residents to believe they were taking a tougher stand than they were willing to make.
If the board had simply been open and honest with residents about their concerns, I wouldn’t be as bothered by the language of the resolution. In fact, the language of the resolution matters less to me than the cowardly way these supervisors handled the issue.
I have emailed all five of the Amelia County supervisors, and I’ve asked each of them five questions:
1- Were members of the public able to see the text of the proposed resolution beforehand? I didn’t see any copies available at the meeting itself.2- Why did the board decide to not adopt language that declared the county to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary county?3- Why were members of the public not allowed to speak on the issue before the vote was taken, in contradiction to the rules of the public comment period posted on the county’s website?4- Do you believe that the hundreds of people in attendance were adequately informed and aware that the board was NOT voting to declare Amelia County a Second Amendment Sanctuary?5- Will the public have the opportunity to speak on the resolution that was approved at the next board of supervisors meeting scheduled for the third Wednesday of January?