Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring has fired a rhetorical shot across the bow of the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement in the state, issuing an advisory opinion that states the resolutions have “no legal effect” under state law. As the Bristol Herald-Courier reports, the AG is sending a clear message to the counties that have declared they will not enforce any unconstitutional gun control laws passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Northam; you will comply.
Citing requirements in the Virginia Constitution and state code for local governments to follow state law, Herring wrote in his four-page opinion that “these resolutions neither have the force of law nor authorize localities or local constitutional officials to refuse to follow or decline to enforce gun violence prevention measures enacted by the General Assembly.”
…In a statement accompanying the public release of the opinion Friday, Herring said, “When the General Assembly passes new gun safety laws they will be enforced, and they will be followed. These resolutions have no legal force, and they’re just part of an effort by the gun lobby to stoke fear.”
The Attorney General is talking tough, but his advisory opinion changes absolutely nothing. First, the resolutions that have been passed by nearly 90% of Virginia’s counties are just that; resolutions. No one has claimed that they have any legal effect. They don’t have to. County supervisors aren’t going to be the ones tasked with enforcing any new gun control laws. That would be the county sheriff (or police chief in Virginia’s cities and towns) and the commonwealth’s attorney. And despite what Herring says, law enforcement has every right to use discretion in how they enforce the law.
In fact, I’ve pointed out here on several occasions that Democrat commonwealth’s attorneys haven’t been strictly enforcing the state’s marijuana laws, without a peep of protest from Herring, who supports legalizing cannabis in the state. In other words, when Herring doesn’t like a law, he doesn’t object to law enforcement using their discretion to not enforce it. If, on the other hand, Herring is in favor of the law, he’ll demand that the law be followed.
Herring is also incorrect and unserious when he says the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is “just part of an effort by the gun lobby to stoke fear.” The “gun lobby” has nothing to do with what’s happening in Virginia’s Second Amendment Sanctuary communities. This is a hyper-local movement, where even a guy a couple of counties over is likely to be seen as an interloper if he takes too much interest in another county’s business. The fact that Herring is trying to blame this on “the gun lobby” is just an indication of how flummoxed the state’s gun control advocates are at the moment. They can only repeat their canned responses, because they have no idea how to handle what’s really happening.
I spoke with one gun owner yesterday about why he got involved in pushing for his county to adopt a resolution. He told me he votes, but he’s never been political before. He spends his free time with his family, working on cars, hanging out with friends and other pursuits. In fact, as he said, he owns an AR-15 but can’t remember the last time he shot it.
“That doesn’t mean I’m going to let them take it away from me,” he told me, in a pretty solid summation of the attitudes of many supporters of the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions. Virginia Democrats, not “the gun lobby,” have woken up tens of thousands of Virginians, and they’re not going to roll over and fall back asleep.