Amherst County residents raise their hands to show support for their county’s “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolution. November 19, 2019. (Graham Moomaw/Virginia Mercury)
The irony is lost on them, apparently.
For years, as they successfully argued to block new gun restrictions in the GOP-controlled General Assembly, gun rights groups talked about the horrific injustice that would be perpetrated on “law-abiding” gun owners by the passage of any new gun law, including the onerous imposition that they be required to report firearms lost or stolen or ensure that a person they might sell a gun to actually is allowed to buy it.
Now, in cramped county meeting rooms across the commonwealth, mostly rural denizens are having stunning success in bullying their boards of supervisors into declaring their counties “Second Amendment sanctuaries,” an attempt at preemptive defiance of new gun laws expected after Democrats captured the General Assembly last month. Turns out they just won’t abide new laws.
The parents of murdered TV reporter Alison Parker couldn’t even get a word in before the Henry County Board of Supervisors vote.
“To declare Henry County a Second Amendment sanctuary is to say, ‘Sorry for your loss, but freedom for anyone to have access to guns without any restriction is more important than your child’s life,’” Barbara Parker told the board after the fact, per The Martinsville Bulletin. “I’ve been here 22 years, and for the first time, I feel like it’s not my home anymore.”
Supporters will tell you they’re merely pledging fealty to a higher law, the U.S. Constitution, but that is of course utter nonsense. As The Roanoke Times pointed out, even the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Heller decision, which affirmed the individual right to “possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia,” said firearms regulation and the Second Amendment are compatible.
“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote. “From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
Many of these local elected officials, in kowtowing to the gun mob, know that their resolutions are largely symbolic. But that doesn’t mean they’re meaningless. They are only the latest example of an increasing and dangerous fracturing in our society.
“We need to send a signal to Richmond about Northern Virginia. We don’t want their influence to affect us down here. We’re very different people,” Clay Scott, a 25-year-old construction project manager from Amelia, told The Washington Post. Elected sheriffs and commonwealth’s attorneys — whose job description is quite literally enforcing Virginia law — also joining in on the craze is far more troubling.
Del. Jay Jones, D-Norfolk, was only being slightly hyperbolic when he wrote in his letter requesting a formal opinion on the sanctuaries from Attorney General Mark Herring that allowing localities and elected officials to flout laws duly passed by the legislature is “indicative of the same mindset that nearly 150 years ago led this country to dissolve into a civil war.”
And here’s the thing: Gun rights groups aren’t doing themselves or their members any favors. Despite their ability to flood county and city meeting chambers with delusional people who are convinced their 30-round magazines and AR-15s are the only thing standing between the citizenry and a tyrannical federal government, they are actually in the minority.
The majority, in fact, has already spoken by giving Democrats, who ran on an explicit agenda of new gun restrictions, control of the legislature. And a Roanoke College poll released Tuesday shows wide support for several of the key pieces of gun regulation Democrats are pushing.
Rather than engage with well-meaning lawmakers who may not be steeped in rural traditions like hunting and shooting to tweak regulations that could prove burdensome for young hunters, such as bills restricting access to firearms by minors and raising age requirements for purchases of long guns, this kind of defiance only makes it easier for the new Democratic majorities to brush those concerns aside, just as Republicans have done for years to gun control advocates.
It also probably won’t help them get a seat at the table in what promises to be a thorny debate over a potential red flag law and the assault weapon ban proposed by new Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, which would affect a huge number of guns in the state.
And the histrionics on display in Virginia Beach Tuesday night, where the “Guns Save Lives” throngs had the audacity to demand a gun sanctuary resolution from the city still grieving victims of the municipal building shooting there in May, likewise won’t likely earn a sympathetic ear from Democratic lawmakers come January.
It’s a shame more local elected officials haven’t found the guts to resist these needlessly divisive resolutions. Look to the Roanoke City Council, though, for an example, where Del. Chris Head, R-Botetourt, was trying to coax the council along with a version of the “everyone else is doing it” argument, noting that resisting a gun sanctuary declaration was “really sort of swimming upstream,” The Roanoke Times reported.
“Sometimes when we govern, it’s important to swim upstream,” Vice Mayor Joe Cobb replied.
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