I swear I could spend my working hours writing nothing but responses to anti-Second Amendment Sanctuary columns that have been appearing in Virginia newspapers over the past few weeks, but I’m rationing myself to one-per-day so I can still get in some actual news coverage instead of me stepping up on my soapbox. As soon as I saw this column by Roanoke resident and medical student Harsh Patolia, I stopped looking for other editorials, because this one’s a doozy.
Patolia is of two minds on the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement. On the one hand, he wants to dismiss it as just a bunch of meaningless resolutions. On the other hand, he seems awfully concerned about the enforcement of Ralph Northam’s new gun laws in these counties that have declared their opposition to unconstitutional laws that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms.
These movements have gained traction, evoking vernacular (namely “sanctuary”) that had been similarly utilized by cities that refused to voluntarily cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in the deportation of undocumented immigrants. The Editorial Board of the Washington Post distinguished the use of “sanctuary city” in the case of gun control in a recent op ed. They clarified that, in the case of the sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants, no law was being necessarily broken. However, gun control sanctuaries have adopted vocabulary that ignores written legislation signed by the governor and drafted by the state legislature.
Nevertheless, these resolutions are legally meaningless. In Virginia, these resolutions have become preemptive political statements against expected Democratic-led legislative gun control measures to be introduced next year as the most recent round of November state election resulted in a Democratic-led Virginia General Assembly as well as Executive Mansion — for the first time in about twenty years.
No law is being broken when counties adopt Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions, or when county sheriffs and commonwealth’s attorneys use their discretion in enforcing the law. Are the resolutions legally meaningless? They’re resolutions, not ordinances, so of course they don’t have the weight of law. Clearly though, they have meaning and purpose for the thousands of Virginians who’ve packed in to their county supervisors meetings to show their support. That’s what worries Patolia.
However, the conversation surrounding gun sanctuary resolutions in counties and cities across the countrybrings into question the concerning future of enforcement. Though reasonable legislation will be enacted by Richmond in the coming year, any law will only be as effective as its executor. Without local funding sources as well as support by governing authorities (i.e law enforcement), how can what will soon be the rule of state law be appropriately enforced? Will arms be wrung that same way President Eisenhower mobilized the National Guard to enforce desegregation of the school system in Little Rock in 1957?
Patolia has his analogy and history backwards. Eisenhower didn’t send in the National Guard to enforce desegregation of the Little Rock public schools. He sent in the 101st Airborne after Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to prevent black students from entering the city’s Central High School.
Just as Faubus did in 1957, if Governor Ralph Northam activated the state’s National Guard to enforce his unconstitutional gun control laws, he’d be using the power of military force to prevent the exercise of a right. Maybe the question Patolia should be asking is whether or not Donald Trump would send in the 101st Airborne to ensure the constitutional rights of Virginians aren’t violated.
If Patolia was hoping to persuade gun owners with the force of his argument, he probably failed when he denigrated the idea of gun ownership in general.
Guns have pervaded American culture since its birth, rooted in a persistent (and perhaps outdated) spirit of defiance and exceptionalism. Why some Americans feel more is at threat than just their firearms is difficult to stomach as lawmakers begin introducing evidence-based legislation into the Virginia General Assembly to curb a clear and evident threat to American public health. And though it is oddly refreshing to witness citizens exercising their constitutional right to speech and assembly, I truly believe that there is no place for partisanship when it comes to the loss of human lives. Though 2020 will hail healthy opportunities for growth in Virginia with respect to gun control legislation, the popularity of gun control sanctuaries continues to temper my optimism regarding local enforcement of future measures.
Hoo-boy. Guns have “pervaded” American culture? How about guns have been intertwined with individual freedom since before the United States was the United States? After all, the Bill of Rights was passed to ensure the protection of existing rights, not to grant any new rights that weren’t available before the adoption of the Constitution.
That spirit of defiance and exceptionalism has served this nation well in pursuit of life and liberty over the following centuries, and the right to keep and bear arms has been an important part of our continued struggle for greater freedom. I suggest Patolia pick up a copy of Professor Nicholas Johnson’s Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms and Charles Cobb’s This Non-Violent Stuff Will Get You Killed: How Guns Made The Civil Rights Movement Possible to learn about the role that the Second Amendment has played in the expansion of civil and individual rights in this country.
The medical student is right when he says that there’s no place for partisanship when it comes to the loss of human lives, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should automatically support new gun control laws. I and many other gun owners believe that the safety and security of our state would be far better served by expanding mental health treatment and targeting violent gang members and drug dealers instead of dozens of new laws that restrict the legal ownership of firearms in the state. Supporting gun control doesn’t give Patolia any moral high ground, because as he says, we’re all on the side of saving lives. We just disagree about how to go about it. As it turns out, there are an awful lot of Virginians who object to experiments in public safety at the expense of their Constitutionally-protected rights.