Everytown for Gun Safety has been busy submitting Freedom of Information Act requests to dozens of Virginia counties over the past couple of months, hoping to find evidence that the National Rifle Association is behind the push for Second Amendment Sanctuaries. The group specifically asked county administrators for any emails between county officials and the NRA, as well as the Virginia Citizens Defense League and other gun groups. Clearly, Everytown and the gun control movement were hoping to prove that the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is just a gimmick by “the gun lobby” and not an organic response to the unconstitutional gun control bills proposed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
Well, guess what? As gun owners have been saying all along, the movement isn’t being directed by the NRA, and even the Washington Post can’t claim otherwise. The paper, which received scores of emails obtained by Everytown, is now trying out a new narrative since the “it’s just a ploy by the gun lobby” argument can’t be sustained. The movement may be organic, the paper now opines, but that doesn’t mean that every official supports the movement.
Nobody has ever claimed that these resolutions somehow have the force of law. They are resolutions, after all (though a few counties have gone a step further and passed actual ordinances). We’ve also known all along that there was some reluctance on the part of some county officials to get involved. The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is something new, and frankly, I know of quite a few county and local officials who felt it wasn’t their place to take a stand or were afraid of the repercussions from lawmakers.
In a Nov. 20 email to some supervisors, Young described sanctuary declarations as ‘unconstitutional and worthless.’The emails were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that supports gun control. The organization provided copies to The Washington Post, which independently confirmed their authenticity.
The messages show local officials questioning the validity of sanctuary resolutions that were being rapidly adopted by Virginia counties, cities and towns as the new Democratic majorities in the state legislature prepared to pass sweeping gun control measures. The emails also describe confusion among residents about whether living in a so-called gun sanctuary would remove limits on how guns could be bought and sold.
So now the knock on the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is that it breeds confusion? I’d argue that it doesn’t come close to the confusion sown by Northam and his anti-gun allies in the legislature, who’ve proposed banning possession of all firearms deemed to be “assault weapons” (before backing off in favor of a slightly modified bill that allows continued possession once you and your guns are registered with the state), banning commonly owned magazines and ammunition, and a host of other restrictions that have been modified and in some cases completely rewritten in committee hearings and on the floor of the House and Senate.
The Washington Post also enlists the help of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to try to rebut the argument that, because Virginia prosecutors have decided on their own not to enforce some of the state’s drug laws, prosecutors and sheriffs in Second Amendment Sanctuaries can use that same discretion not to enforce any unconstitutional gun control measures.
Charlotte Gomer, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), dismissed the comparison. ‘I don’t think any prosecutor wants to be the one who allows an unlicensed gun dealer to flood their community with deadly weapons or sell guns to dangerous felons or domestic abusers,’ she said.
Herring issued a legal opinion in December that said the sanctuary resolutions have no legal weight.
I’m not sure what bill Gomer’s referring to, but if Northam gets his way, we’re not going to be talking about “unlicensed gun dealers” (which, by the way, are already illegal under federal law), but otherwise law-abiding gun owners getting prosecuted for possessing a 20-round magazine they bought back in 2002, or parents prosecuted for allowing their 17-year old daughter to have access to a firearm for self-defense while she was home alone.
Note as well that Gomer’s response said nothing about any legal differences between refusing to prosecute drug cases and refusing to prosecute any of Northam’s new gun control laws. That’s because, legally speaking, there simply is no difference. If a prosecutor in Fairfax County can decide he’s not going to enforce some drug laws, a prosecutor in Wise County can do the same with gun control laws. In fact, I’m guessing that next year there are going to be plenty of county sheriff and commonwealth attorney candidates who run on a platform of not enforcing any of Northam’s new gun control laws.
Despite their best attempts to prove that the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is something manufactured by national gun organizations, Everytown and the Washington Post proved instead that this truly is a citizen-driven movement with no national or even state leadership. As I’ve been saying all along, for better and worse, this is an incredibly localized movement that can hopefully come together and harness its collective power in the months ahead.