The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement that swept across the state of Virginia over the past twelve months has now taken a step in a slightly different direction. New resolutions are being offered and approved in several counties that declared themselves to be safe havens for gun owners, only this time they’re aimed at Gov. Ralph Northam’s latest COVID-19 executive order instead of anti-gun legislation proposed by the governor and his fellow Democrats in control of the state legislature.
On Tuesday evening the Campbell County board of supervisors approved a resolution declaring the county a “First Amendment Sanctuary” in opposition to Northam’s latest round of coronavirus-related restrictions.
The proposed resolution states the governor’s mandate is in violation of the Constitution of Virginia and seeks to oppose enforcement of the executive order. Specifically, it states that no county funds will be used to restrict “the First Amendment,” and requests the sheriff’s office “not assist any state law enforcement officer, state health agent or federal agent” attempting to enforce the order.
Dozens of Campbell County residents turned out to back the resolution, many a united front in camo, blue jeans and ballcaps. When Concord District Supervisor Matt Cline began to read the resolution, there was a flurry of movement as they took off their face masks in a show of support. The same solidarity brought the crowd to its feet as residents praised the county for passing the resolution and, in turn, dismissed the few residents who took to the podium to speak in opposition.
Northam’s latest mandate restricts indoor and outdoor gatherings to no more than 25 people, and also mandates that restaurants and bars must stop on-site alcohol sales at 10 p.m. and close by midnight. Local restaurant owner Chris England told the Campbell County board that the new restrictions are crippling his business.
Before COVID-19, he said, he had more than 50 employees. Now he is down to about a dozen. The new restrictions on alcohol sales take his best 16 hours of the week, he said. He added that his profits have taken a deep dive, and the restrictions are taking the food off of his employees’ tables.
“I believe that we ought to protect the vulnerable, protect the high risk, but let everybody live their life,” England said. “I’m asking for you, as the board, to take my sentiments as one of the few restaurants and bars in Campbell County, and push it up the food chain to Governor Northam. Let him know how it’s affecting us, how it’s affecting our county.”
A similar resolution that would have directed the sheriff to actually arrest officials who were enforcing Northam’s mandate was tabled in Bedford County last week after county supervisors recognized that they don’t actually have the power to order the sheriff to do anything. County supervisors control the budget for the local sheriff, but they don’t have any authority over enforcement of the laws on the books.
When it came to Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions, most of the counties adopted language that said no county funds should be used to enforce unconstitutional gun control laws. That’s very similar to the language in Campbell County’s new First Amendment Sanctuary resolution, but given the fact that the Virginia Department of Health, and not the Campbell County sheriff, will be the primary enforcers of any fines levied against businesses violating the governor’s edict, the latest resolution is fairly symbolic in nature.
Still, Campbell County’s resolution, and others that are likely to follow, will send a message to Northam, though I expect he’ll cover his ears and refuse to listen. Like many other counties across the state, Campbell County has seen an increase in the number of COVID cases over the past month, but hospitalizations and deaths from the virus are almost non-existent in the county.
For many residents, the threat from Northam’s mandates is indeed far worse than the threat posed by COVID-19, and if the governor and Democrats in Virginia ignore the increasing hostility towards the one-size-fits-all mandates, they do so at their own political peril. 2021 is an election year in Virginia, with every seat in the House of Delegates up for grabs along with the governorship, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General. Rural Democrats in particular are already going to face a tough re-election thanks to the anti-gun agenda pushed by Northam and others, and the hostility towards Northam’s coronavirus restrictions could lead to a red wave in much of the state come November.