Governor makes first comments on 2A Sanctuaries

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: December 30, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.

‘Consequences’ possible for localities if gun laws aren’t enforced by police, Northam says

DINWIDDIE – Weeks before the start of the upcoming General Assembly session, Governor Ralph Northam made his first comments on the wave of cities, counties, and towns that have declared themselves as Second Amendment sanctuaries as gun owners push their local governments to stand for their right to keep and bear arms with gun reform expected to lead the Democratic-led House and State Senate agenda during next month’s session.

Speaking at an event in Hampton Roads earlier this month, Northam stressed that “there is not going to be retaliation” levied against communities who adopt Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions but, he did say there could be “consequences” if the laws of the state are not enforced by law enforcement offices within those communities.

“If we have constitutional laws on the books and law enforcement officers are not enforcing those laws, there are going to be some consequences but, I will cross that bridge if and when we get to it,” the governor said.. The governor did not detail specific “consequences” during his comments.

Days after last month’s general election and a result that saw Democrats attain control of both chambers of the General Assembly while holding the keys to the Governor’s mansion, the first time Democrats held both the House and Senate in over two decades, many gun owners expressed concerns about what this change in leadership means for their rights after many newly elected and incumbent Democrats campaigned throughout the summer into the fall on seeking “common sense” firearms reforms and addressing gun violence in the Commonwealth.

Those concerns were shared by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, an organization focused on “advancing the fundamental human right of all Virginians to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment … and Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” who led a grassroots effort in localities across the Commonwealth to have boards of supervisors and city councils to declare themselves as Second Amendment sanctuaries, with those supporting the idea sharing model resolutions with their elected officials to consider.

Dinwiddie was one of the first communities to declare themselves a sanctuary county, with a majority of the county board of supervisors voting in favor of the resolution which, in part, states Dinwiddie will oppose, within the rights of the U.S. Constitution and state law, “any efforts to unconstitutionally restrict such rights, and to use such legal means at its disposal to protect the constitutional rights of the citizens to keep and bear arms, including through legal action, the power of appropriation of public funds, and the right to petition for redress of grievances.”

In an interview following their action just before Thanksgiving, Chairman William Chavis said the resolution was not presented or adopted as a response to the outcome of the general election days earlier but was born out of concerns he received from residents in the county, which led to his request to have the item added to their evening session agenda, which saw a standing-room only crowd on hand for the resolution’s adoption.

“We just want to take a stance for my citizens that we stand firm on the Second Amendment,” he said. “We support it. My constituents called me and they were concerned about it. I am the chairman, so I put it on the agenda to see if it would pass. I didn’t know if it would pass or not. That is what you do, you listen to the citizens and that is what I did.”

“Dinwiddie County is a firm believer in the Second Amendment. We stand hard on it,” Chavis continued.

Since Dinwiddie’s action in November, neighboring localities like Prince George, Sussex, and Colonial Heights have passed similar resolutions, featuring equally large turnouts for the meetings where the resolution’s adoption would occur, with many wearing orange “Guns Save Lives” stickers or other apparel supporting the Second Amendment and their right to keep and bear arms. 

As of last week, the VCDL reported they had “101 Second Amendment Sanctuary counties, towns, and cities,” according to their website. 

In Hampton Roads, the governor said he has no problem with communities passing the resolutions, which have been seen as largely symbolic by representatives from the state attorney general’s office and area lawmakers who have already or are planning to head back to Richmond for the 2020 session kickoff next month.

“They can continue to have their meetings. They can continue to make sanctuary counties but, we are going to do what Virginians have asked us to do,” Northam continued.

The language within some area counties does echo that of the VCDL’s model resolution but also deviates some, with Dinwiddie, Prince George and Sussex’s resolutions all omitting a line found in VCDL’s resolution that states a locality would oppose laws that “unconstitutionally restrict” the rights of gun owners by using their power to “direct the law enforcement and employees … to not enforce any unconstitutional law,” with a resident in nearby Prince George arguing, without that language, the resolution could be seen as “hollow” and lacking weight in gun owners’ efforts to support their gun rights.

That language has been important for the organization, who says on the front page of their website, “Law enforcement officers do not have to, and shouldn’t, enforce any unconstitutional laws” but, in a recent update, the VCDL said “Just because a locality is a sanctuary doesn’t mean you can’t be arrested.”

“We must stop the gun control bills from ever becoming law,” they said. “This fight will take at least two years, so stay engaged,” noting their plans to visit the General Assembly on January 20 for a rally for gun rights.

While the number of Second Amendment sanctuary localities has risen into the triple digits, some have passed resolutions but stopped short of designating themselves as sanctuaries, such as Surry County. In their adopted resolution, titled, “A Resolution in Support of Second Amendment Rights,” there is no mention of “sanctuary county” in the page-long document. Additionally, the resolution “urges the members of the General Assembly and Governor to take no action which would violate the freedoms guaranteed in both Constitutions” but, it also lacks language its neighbors in Dinwiddie and Sussex have adopted, which says the county would use legal actions to protect the rights of its citizens to keep and bear arms.

That apparent deficiency in the eyes of sanctuary supporters drew concern from gun owners in Surry County, along with Delegate Emily Brewer (R-64), who asked their board of supervisors to consider going with “a different format” for their resolution, even though, on the VCDL’s website, they are listed as a sanctuary locality despite their resolution not including those words or a commitment to use legal action to defend the Second Amendment rights of its citizens. 

The delegate said, in part, “several bills have been filed [that are] not only intended to control firearm usage and ownership – almost direct elimination of firearm ownership, which is not only egregious it is absolutely an assault to the Second Amendment” during her visit to Surry County this month. 

While Northam stressed the Commonwealth is “not going to take people’s guns away,” the legislation being offered by the governor and other Democrats entering this season has drawn heavy concern and criticism from gun rights advocates as Northam plans to reintroduce nearly a dozen proposals that had been presented during July’s special session on gun violence prevention, which ended in less than two hours before any bills were heard.

Among his efforts, Northam wants increased background checks,  a reinstatement of limits on handgun purchases to one per month, a ban on “assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers,” and “prohibiting all individuals subject to final protective orders from possessing firearms,” among others. In the face of opponents arguing this and other proposals set to be heard on the subject next month infringe on state gun owners’ Second Amendment rights, the governor said the proposals are, in fact, constitutional. 

“Any law that we pass in Richmond and the eight pieces of legislation that I put on the table back in July, they are constitutional so, that is not going to be an issue,” Northam said.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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