Virginia city declares itself a Second Amendment sanctuary

Virginia city declares itself a Second Amendment sanctuary
AP Photo/Steve Helber

The high water mark for the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement in Virginia came back in late 2019 and early 2020, when in a matter of weeks more than 100 towns, cities, and counties across the commonwealth approved resolutions (and in a few cases, actual ordinances) vowing not to enforce any new gun control measures imposed by either the federal or state governments. The impetus for the massive outpouring of support for the right to keep and bear arms was the Democratic takeover of the state legislature, which was immediately followed by then-Gov. Ralph Northam’s push to ban so-called assault weapons.

That bill ultimately failed in the Democrat-controlled state Senate, and Republicans took back control of the House of Delegates as well as all statewide offices in 2021, which ended the immediate threat of anti-gun legislation being signed into law. Still, gun owners in Virginia are still hyper-vigilant to any attempt to infringe on their fundamental rights, and on Tuesday the city council in Lynchburg, Virginia became the latest community to declare itself a sanctuary for the Second Amendment.

Lynchburg’s new City Council voted Tuesday evening in favor during their work session. The final vote was 5 to 2.

According to the agenda for the session, the topic was only supposed to be discussed but not voted on.

Councilman Jeff Helgeson made a motion to vote on it and move ahead with the idea, and newly elected Councilman Larry Taylor seconded the motion.

All five Republican-leaning council members supported it.

“People deserve to be able to defend themselves”, Councilman Martin Misjuns added. “Four our city to honor that is just tremendously inspiring to me.”

Former Lynchburg Mayor and current Councilwoman Mary Jane Dolan fired back and said this was unnecessary because the city still supports the Second Amendment.

“This idea holds no legality, and we have no jurisdiction over this”, Dolan said. “This is a disservice to our citizens, a distraction and it’s an embarrassment to our city.”

It’s embarrassing that the city council expressed their intention to not tread on the rights of residents? That attitude might help to explain why Dolan is the former mayor, as well as why Lynchburg voters delivered big wins to Republican city council candidates on Election Day last November, with conservatives winning all three open seats on the council and giving Republicans control of city government for the first time since 1999.

Do I think that a Second Amendment sanctuary designation was the primary motivating factor in those elections? No, not specifically. But I do think that many Lynchburg voters were fed up with not feeling represented, and the anti-gun attitudes and dismissive response to previous requests for council action on a Second Amendment sanctuary designation definitely played a role in the defeat of the Democratic-approved slate of candidates.

“When you listen, and you have something where you’re listening to citizens, you actually listen to what they say, and you act on what they say, and they overwhelmingly said we want this. It’s time for us to act to uphold the Constitution,” said council member Jeff Helgeson.

Helgeson was referring to the hours-long public hearing on the same resolution that was shot down by council in 2020.

City Attorney Matthew Freedman outlined what exactly being a Second Amendment Sanctuary City means.

“What it is, is basically a position that the city is committing to, city council commits the city to, to have the ability to appropriate funds and take court action to oppose bills that may be presented before Congress or before the General Assembly or to take court action for the same.”

So, despite Dolan’s objections to what she described as a “shameful” proposal, there’s nothing legally questionable about the resolution that was approved on Tuesday night. The real shame is that she and one other council member weren’t willing to take a stand in support of the Second Amendment rights of their constituents… something that voters will likely still remember when she’s up for re-election in 2024.