A First-Hand Look At The Second Amendment Sanctuary Phenomenon

The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement that is sweeping the state of Virginia is like nothing I’ve ever seen in fifteen years of covering the issue, and when I learned that Amelia County supervisors were holding their meeting on Wednesday evening, I decided to make the easy drive from where I live outside of Farmville to see for myself if there’d be anybody in attendance speaking in support of a resolution. Keep in mind, no vote was being taken because no resolution had been introduced at that point, but I was pretty sure there’d be a few folks in attendance asking supervisors to declare the county a sanctuary for the right to keep and bear arms in the face of the dozens of gun control bills that are already being filed in Richmond.

The first inkling I had that more than a few folks had shown up came on my drive into town. Amelia Courthouse, which is the county seat, is a pretty sleepy little town where the businesses on the courthouse square shut down at 5 p.m. Yet as I approached the small downtown area, I noticed that cars were parked all along the street. When I actually was able to see the courthouse, I was stunned to see hundreds of residents of Amelia County gathered outside the courthouse where the supervisors meeting was already taking place.

I had to park several blocks away, and by the time I arrived, Philip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League was finishing a few spontaneous remarks to the crowd about the importance of continuing the momentum by showing up at the capitol for Lobby Day in January. After he finished speaking, I was able to make my way through the crowd to ask him what he thought about the huge turnout, which packed the meeting room inside the courthouse building and spilled out onto the front steps and lawn.

“It’s been unreal,” he responded. “From my point of view, I’ve never seen anything like this. We have so much information coming in, gun owners everywhere contacting us. I can’t get my emails below 1,200 because now matter how many I answer three times as many come in. But this is good. It’s great to see gun owners awake in so many numbers.”

Some county supervisors around the state have expressed some caution about supporting a resolution, concerned that they would either be going too far in challenging the state or offering up a toothless resolution, but Van Cleave says the local lawmakers shouldn’t be worried and should get on board.

“It’s a resolution, not an ordinance,” Van Cleave explained. “Now look, if a sheriff wants to not enforce portions of the law that he considers unconstitutional, he can do that. He is totally independent. The supervisors can’t tell him what to do and he can’t tell them what to do, but a lot of sheriffs are saying ‘we will do what the county decides they want to do. If they want to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary then we’ll honor that.’ And if a county has a chief of police, they can tell the chief of police not to enforce unconstitutional gun laws. So I wouldn’t be too sure there aren’t a little bit of teeth in these resolutions.”

There were several Bearing Arms readers in attendance at the meeting, including one gentleman who had just finished watching the latest episode of Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co. before heading to the courthouse! In fact, he was supposed to be at work on Wednesday night, but told me that owing his boss a few hours was worth getting a chance to show county supervisors that he wants them to support the Second Amendment as much as their constituents do.

I also spoke with Amelia County resident Carl Jensen, who said he felt compelled to come to the courthouse because he’s “sick and tired of all this nonsense about taking our rights away.”

“It’s just getting to the point where no one is listening to anybody with any common sense,” he said with exasperation.

When I asked Carl what he thought about the turnout for the supervisors’ meeting, he replied that he was pleased but not surprised.

“I was pleased that people are actually showing up,” he said as he looked around at the crowd. “You know, when I went to vote earlier this month I wasn’t impressed with the amount of people that showed up to vote.”

The lack of surprise, he explained, was because he too believes that gun owners in Virginia are finally taking the threat to their rights seriously. He just hopes it isn’t too late.

A couple of Virginia lawmakers were in attendance, and Carl and the assembled crowd cheered as state Senator Amanda Chase proclaimed that any attempt by the General Assembly to restrict the right of the people to keep and bear arms would be met with fierce resistance by Republican lawmakers, who will be in the minority when the next legislative session kicks off in early January.

Chase told me after she finished speaking to the crowd from the courthouse steps that it’s critical for Virginia gun owners to use their voice right now, and to keep the momentum going.

“We have to be vocal, we can’t be silent, we need to show up during this General Assembly session , we need to e-mail, we need to call our legislators and let them know where we stand so that before my colleagues push that button and cast their votes, they think twice about it.”

As for the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement itself, Chase says she’s encouraged and excited.

“It’s so grassroots and organic,” she replied. “I’m encouraged and excited that so many citizens understand the importance of the Second Amendment and its ability to protect all of the other freedoms that we have. It is a basic fundamental right, and the number of people coming out tonight shows that there’s tremendous support, even now.”

The Amelia County Board of Supervisors meets again on December 18th, and a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution is expected to be voted on at that time. I’ll be there for the vote, though I suspect that I and hundreds of others will likely be listening from the courthouse lawn again.

Virginia’s gun owners are in for a tough fight, and we’re likely going to lose most of our legislative battles in the next few months. As the surprisingly upbeat but clearly motivated crowd in Amelia County showed on Wednesday evening, however, even losing that battle doesn’t mean we’ll give up and surrender our rights.