We’re less than a month away from a half-dozen gun control laws passed during the 2020 legislative session from going into effect in Virginia, and the legal opposition to the measures is already starting to take shape. While lawsuits won’t likely be filed until after the new legislation becomes law on July 1st, some Second Amendment advocates in Virginia Beach are moving forward with a push to formally reject the new laws, either through a vote on the City Council or by a vote of the people.
Petitioners have turned in enough signatures to force Norfolk’s City Council to consider a measure that would instruct city police to effectively ignore new gun-control measures passed by the Virginia General Assembly, the lead organizer behind the petition effort said.
Such a vote is unlikely from a largely liberal council that voted this year to ask state lawmakers to give the city the right to ban guns in more public places. But the issue could ultimately be decided by voters.
Bob Brown, the chairman of Norfolk’s Republican Party and the lead petitioner, said his group turned in roughly 1,400 signatures to Norfolk’s Circuit Court clerk on Thursday, just ahead of the deadline.
The drive began Jan. 30, and Brown said they lost months of time to collect signatures when quarantine measures went into place as the coronavirus pandemic heated up in America, but things had loosened up enough for them to collect signatures on Election Day in May.
That’s actually pretty impressive, considering the lockdowns that began in mid-March and have only slightly eased in the months since. It’s also interesting that it was the local elections that allowed Brown to gather enough signatures, given that we’ve already seen evidence that high turnout by gun owners was a key part of some surprising upsets in the state, including a sweep of the Staunton City Council that refused to even consider a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution.
Virginia Beach passed a watered-down version of a similar resolution, and the paper’s correct that the council isn’t likely to back the petition. What about a vote of the people?
Should the council reject — or refuse to vote on — the ordinance, Brown’s group will have a chance to collect several thousand more signatures to force the issue onto the November ballot and give voters the chance to decide.
The Second Amendment ordinance is part of what was a substantial organized backlash during this year’s General Assembly session, where a new Democratic majority passed several laws that gun rights advocates have decried as unconstitutional, including broader background checks for gun purchases and the ability for localities to ban firearms in some public places.
Ordinarily, I’d say that gun owners would be facing nearly impossible odds of getting voters to approve non-enforcement of the state’s new gun laws, simply based on the politics of the Democrat-run city, but if gun owners are willing to take their message to an unlikely audience, they could find themselves with enough allies to actually win in November.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fascinated by the split on the Left between support for new gun control laws on the one hand, and the growing desire to defund police on the other. Second Amendment advocates could make a pitch to Team No Police by pointing out that these new gun control laws are, according to their own beliefs about the criminal justice system, going to be enforced far more against young black men than anyone else, while doing nothing to reduce violent crime in the city.
Democrats, after all, are going to want strict enforcement of Northam’s new gun laws in order to try to prove their effectiveness, but they’re not likely to get much help in many of the state’s Second Amendment Sanctuaries. That puts even more pressure on cities like Virginia Beach to prosecute Northam’s new laws, and that means more black men facing criminal charges for violating nonsensical laws like transferring a firearm without a background check or carrying a lawfully possessed firearm in a public park, because the city council says its illegal.
The defund police movement isn’t a huge one, but in liberal Virginia Beach it may easily be just as strong as the Second Amendment movement. One of the hurdles would be the fact that the local chairman of the Republican Party is the one leading the effort for the vote, and I doubt many in the defund police movement are big Republicans, though they do share a desire to shrink the size of government. If nothing else Brown could offer to sit down with local leaders in the defund police movement to hear them out, and ask them to do the same on local enforcement of Northam’s gun control laws.
I don’t think the defund police movement is going to achieve its goal, but even getting a few bad laws off the books would be a positive step for both their cause and for the Second Amendment community. And who knows, there might be more common ground to be found among the two groups than I first thought. If nothing else, they could probably bond over the idea of defunding the ATF. Regardless, the defund police movement should be opposed to enforcement of these new laws no matter how they might feel about gun ownership itself. And if the two groups were to succeed in rallying voters to reject enforcement of Northam’s gun control laws, the media couldn’t help but take notice of the politically strange bedfellows finding a common cause.
If Virginia Beach gun owners have any chance to succeed in pushing for non-enforcement of Northam’s new gun laws, they’re going to have to find some allies somewhere. As odd as it sounds, the defund police movement may be their best bet.