The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement swept across Virginia in late 2019 and early 2020 as a reaction to Democrats capturing control of the state legislature in the 2019 elections. The vast majority of county governments in the state ended up adopting resolutions or (in some cases) ordinances prohibiting cooperation with enforcing new federal gun control laws, though a few counties chose to pass more watered-down language instead.
That was the case in Surry County, which approved a pro-Second Amendment resolution in December 2019, but didn’t adopt the stronger language that hundreds of residents demanded.
“The Surry County Board of Supervisors feels that the right of citizens to bear arms, as stated in both the United States Constitution and the Virginia Constitution, is a fundamental right that should be protected to the greatest degree possible,” the resolution read. But the term “sanctuary” was never used.
That disappointed many who attended Thursday’s meeting, including the county’s representative in the House of Delegates.
“We attended the board meeting expecting the board to vote on and pass a resolution declaring Surry to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary county,” said county resident Helen Eggleston. “We didn’t get it.”
Eggleston called the resolution “a watered-down imitation of a resolution with no teeth.”
… Del. Emily Brewer, R-Smithfield, whose 64th House District includes Surry and portions of Prince George County, urged the board to declare a sanctuary.
“I know everyone wants to talk about the legality and what a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution may be, well.” Brewer said. “I’ll tell you what, the courts at some point will probably weight in on that; but there are 46 other boards across this commonwealth that have said they want to stand with their citizens, and you have the opportunity to stand with everybody in this room and everyone standing out there in the cold — let them know you support their right to bear arms.”
Brewer said Surry County was “at a crossroads tonight” with the resolution.
“You have the opportunity to come forward with this resolution, add some teeth to it, and send a message to my colleagues in the General Assembly — let us know where you stand,” Brewer said.
It turns out those Second Amendment supporters who were disappointed by the board’s action in 2019 were right to be concerned. Less than two years after stating that the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental and should be “protected to the greatest degree possible,” county supervisors in Surry are set to vote on a local gun ban in early August. As NRA-ILA reports, the proposed ordinance directly attacks the right to bear arms.
The proposed Section 20-67 prohibits firearms, ammunition, and components in public buildings, public parks, and on public streets and sidewalks where, or adjacent to where, certain events are occurring. There are no exemptions for storage in vehicles or for concealed handgun permit holders. This prohibition applies to both permitted events and events that “would otherwise require a County permit,” making it extremely difficult for law-abiding citizens to determine which areas might be, or might become, “gun-free zones.” Individuals who live in an area where an event is occurring may not enter or leave their own property with a firearm. Because this ban includes “components,” citizens may find themselves in legal trouble for accidentally entering one of these vague “gun-free zones” with something as simple as a shell casing forgotten in a pocket or accidentally left in a vehicle.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League is also urging members to contact the Surry County Board of Supervisors to voice their disapproval of the proposed ordinance, noting that, “While resolutions don’t have the force of law, they do have the force of morality, honor, and trust. The Board of Supervisors effectively made a promise to the citizens of Surry and Virginia to protect our right to keep and bear arms with resolution 2019-38, which passed UNANIMOUSLY. Passing gun control breaks that promise. It’s not illegal, but it is immoral to do so.”
While hundreds of Second Amendment supporters turned out in person to push for a 2A Sanctuary resolution in December of 2019, it looks like opponents of the proposed gun control measure are going to have to attend the August meeting of the county supervisors over their computer. A note on the county’s website says the meetings are “currently held remotely as an effort to safely conduct business while maintaining the order of the Governor of Virginia to adhere to safe social distancing practices,” even though the state of emergency declared by Gov. Ralph Northam expired on July 1st.
Whether in person or online, I hope that all those who backed the idea of a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution in 2019 show up to voice their objections to the county’s proposed gun ban. These supervisors gave their support for the Second Amendment just a few months ago, and their attempt to now restrict the rights of law-abiding residents shouldn’t go unchallenged.