The Weekender: Gun sanctuaries; ‘Rumors of War’; Redistricting; the GOP and the Donner Party and more

Virginia Mercury

The weekender: Our round-up of Virginia opinion. 

Mercury commentary ICYMI: In a guest op-ed, Kim Bobo, executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, looked forward to the policy balance in traditionally pro-business Virginia shifting back toward workers during this General Assembly session.

Mercury columnist Bob Lewis explored how much the “Second Amendment sanctuary” push might test the authority of state government. In a reader response, Kyle Shreve, executive director of Virginia Agribusiness Council, picked some bones with Ivy Main’s take on biomass.

Dr. Harry Gewanter warned against making the cure for surprise medical bills worse than the disease. And in a piece that first appeared in The Conversation, classics professor Timothy Joseph drew parallels between the supine Senate of Imperial Rome and the American version in the age of Trump.

Second Amendment sanctuaries: Michael Paul Williams of the Richmond Times-Dispatch blasted Henrico County for yielding, if only in half-hearted fashion, to demands to have the county join the club. “In pandering to an angry crowd demanding a Second Amendment sanctuary, the Henrico County Board of Supervisors opted for banality and redundancy over common sense.”

The Roanoke Times encouraged Democrats, whose new, “remarkably insular” leadership is dominated by Northern Virginians, to visit one of the so-called sanctuaries. “Not because it will change their minds about passing new gun laws. And not because it will change the mind of gun-rights advocates, either,” the paper wrote. “They’ll get a better sense of the depth of feeling about guns that exists across rural Virginia (and parts of non-rural Virginia, too).”

The RTD’s Jeff Schapiro made comparisons to North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom bill” and the boycotts it spawned. “That’s the trumping effect of business,” one local official told him. “If it’s going to cost us jobs, let’s back off.”

And The Virginian-Pilot said rhetoric around the movement, including the Culpeper sheriff vowing to deputize “thousands” rather than enforce new laws, has been troubling.

“The proposals aren’t ‘unnecessary’ according to Virginians who voted for lawmakers to adopt such measures. And deputizing a slew of folks to resist measures passed by a duly elected legislature sounds suspiciously like an uprising — and a rather unorthodox way to demonstrate trust in the rule of law.”

“Rumors of War”: The unveiling of the much-anticipated response by artist Kehinde Wiley to Richmond’s Confederate statues drew much fanfare, even if the tarp didn’t exactly come off without a hitch.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch said it “blends the past and the present as it looks forward to the future and a changing Richmond.”  Williams, the paper’s veteran columnist, riffed on the difficulty in getting the cover off: “You don’t sweep away 400 years of grimy history with the tug of a string. In Virginia, the birthplace of Massive Resistance, the past concedes nothing to the present or future without putting up a fight.”

Redistricting: The RTD’s Jeff Schapiro compared Democrats waffling on redistricting to “congressional Republicans in Washington complaining about the impeachment of President Donald Trump: Recognizing that the facts may be unfavorable, they yowl that the process is flawed.”

Del. Mark Levine, a Democrat representing Alexandria and parts of Arlington and Fairfax, said the proposed constitutional amendment creating a new process for drawing districts that will come before the General Assembly again next month “would allow the dead hand of the past to reconstitute itself forever, with little possibility of ever being uprooted again” because disputes will be resolved by the conservative state Supreme Court.

“Should the partisan appointees of an illegally constituted legislative body control Virginia forevermore?” he wrote in The Washington Post.  “We should never rush to amend our Constitution. After all, the goal is not to do some thing about gerrymandering but to do the right thing.”

Scooter suits: An insurance agency rep, writing in The Roanoke Times, warns about those ubiquitous scooters that have made their way to Roanoke and potential liability for riders: “What happens if the scooter rider hits and injures a pedestrian, damages someone’s property or causes a car accident? Who is responsible? Well, the scooter rider may be held responsible, and most insurance policies will not cover these expenses,” Rebecca Griffith wrote.

Conservatives and climate change: Writing in the Staunton News Leader, guest columnist Stephen Nash crunches some numbers on climate views in conservative areas. “What do folks around here believe about climate change? You may be surprised.”

More transparency please: The Pilot notes that the General Assembly could do “much, much better when it comes to putting the General Assembly’s work within easy reach of the people it serves.”

The GOP in the wilderness: Writing in The Washington Post, Norman Leahy, a weekly commentator on WRVA radio and the Virginia Talk Radio Network, says Virginia Republicans’ new life in the minority could get ugly. “The question is how the GOP will spend its time in the political wilderness and whether the result will look more like Rocky IV or The Donner Party,” he wrote. “Early indications lean heavily toward the latter.”

Preserving a dark chapter in Virginia history: The News & Advance, having conceded defeat in its fight to keep open some version of the Central Virginia Training Center, which, it notes, served “some of Virginia’s most severely intellectually and physically challenged residents,” says it’s also critically important to preserve the history of the site as the state and localities decide its future.

“CVTC was ground zero of the American eugenics movement in the late 1910s and 1920s,” the paper wrote in an editorial that recounts the chilling story of Carrie Buck, a young woman who was forcibly sterilized after losing a legal case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The building in which Buck was operated on against her will still stands, empty and forlorn on an almost-deserted campus. It’s slowly rotting away and with it a chapter of Virginia and American history,” it says, adding that thousands of Virginians later shared Buck’s fate.  “Reading Virginia’s law and paying attention to Virginia’s actions was an Austrian veteran of World War I, living in the German city of Munich: Adolf Hitler.”

Letter of the week: A frustrated reader lets fly at the The Winchester Star’s pro-Trump editorial page. “Mr. O’Connor, have you no shame, sir? Your editorials and letters are biased so far right that they’re gonna topple over any day now, and you will be spitting ashes out of your mouth for many moons,” wrote David Locke of Winchester. “You need to sell your black soul and buy into a moral conscience, before the country and, yes, the world turn to nuclear dust. … P.S. I already know you don’t have the b—s to publish this. Your reputation is putrid.”