We’re still seeing a handful of votes on Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions in Virginia, but with 125 counties, cities, and towns having declared themselves save havens for the right to keep and bear arms, we’re simply running out of real estate to add to the totals.

I’ve been curious to see what’s happened in counties once the votes have been cast. Were gun owners simply twiddling their thumbs while they waited for the legislative session to begin? In some parts of the state, that may have been the case, but in Wise County in the far southwestern part of the state, it sounds like gun owners have been busy.

About 300 Wise County residents gathered Friday to buy raffle tickets for firearms and to cheer opponents of proposed gun control legislation before a Jan. 20 trip to show the General Assembly their stance.

The Wise County Patriots Group, which organized the rally in the former Appalachia High School auditorium, also held a raffle for a 9 mm pistol, a .22-caliber rifle and a Mossberg shotgun as several people lined up to buy tickets to raise funds for buses to take demonstrators to Richmond.

Appalachia Town Councilman Travis Anderson told the audience that the Patriots Group is now comprised of him, county resident Clarence Peters, Norton Vice Mayor Mark Caruso, county resident Ralph Gilley and former Wise town policeman Aaron Cathel. Other elected officials from the Board of Supervisors and Wise joined the audience, including Supervisors J.H. Rivers and Bob Adkins and Wise Second Amendment sanctuary resolution author and Town Council member Laura Taylor-Baugh.

I love the fact that local officials are working with their constituents on efforts like this. What we’re witnessing here is a new chapter in the Second Amendment sanctuary movement; a growing network of similar hyper-local organizations that can communicate and coordinate collective responses to the gun control laws that Governor Ralph Northam is so intent on passing.

I’m also excited to see Wise County’s commonwealth’s attorney taking a vocal stand in opposition to these gun control proposals. In Virginia, commonwealth’s attorneys are the local prosecutors, and if the commonwealth’s attorney in Wise County is objecting to the gun bills, I suspect will be hearing from others very soon.

Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp III led off the rally’s speakers with an attack on various gun control and criminal justice measures on the General Assembly’s plate for the 60-day legislative session.

“Over the course of the last few weeks, months, we have seen, in my opinion, an assault on our freedoms,” Slemp said. He pointed to bills that would bring back parole, raise the dollar threshold for felony larceny offenses and “disarm” law-abiding gun owners.

“They’re going to undermine law enforcement and deprive victims of their voice,” Slemp said. “Thieves don’t need a cost of living increase. Free men need not ask permission to keep and bear arms to protect themselves, their families, their neighbors and their friends.”

While the purpose of this meeting was to help organize Wise County residents’ trip to Richmond for Lobby Day on January 20th, it sounds like the patriots group will continue its work to oppose any new gun control legislation once they return home from the capitol. I wish them luck, and I hope that their example is replicated in other counties across the state.