Editor’s note: There were numerous speakers over two hours who commented on the Board of Supervisors’ action item on Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions. To see all the comments made during matters from the public or during board discussion, visit https://bit.ly/2rFtJGx and watch the recorded meeting.
The Greene County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution 4-1 last week declaring the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary in response to several pre-filed bills in Richmond surrounding gun control measures.
Ruckersville Supervisor Michelle Flynn voted against the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution after telling the board she felt she had been threatened by someone if she voted against it. That person was in the audience, identified himself and has since said he did not threaten her. Flynn did say she would support the second of the two resolutions presented that said the board will uphold their oaths of office and would condemn any infringement on Constitutional rights of its citizens and uphold all the 25 functioning amendments.
With roughly 300 people present for the Dec. 10 board meeting, the room was full two hours before the 7:30 p.m. start time, while others gathered in the hallway of the county administration building and in the farmers’ market pavilion located behind the building. DJ Ricky Morris set up his speakers in the pavilion while the Greene County Republican Committee brought a projector and screen so people outdoors could watch the proceedings.
The board first heard the issue at its Nov. 26 meeting when roughly 250 people were present and 15 spoke with only one who spoke against a resolution. At the Dec. 10 meeting 27 people spoke with seven against it.
Patrick Moctezuma, who lives in Twin Lakes, asked the board to consider what would happen if the homeowners in that neighborhood declared it a sanctuary from county ordinances and state laws it did not like.
“We would hope in that situation, the sheriff and other enforcement officials of this county would not hesitate for one moment to enforce the laws—county, state and otherwise—in Twin Lakes; to do their jobs, which is not to interpret the U.S. Constitution,” Moctezuma said. “That role belongs to the courts and every citizen of Greene County has the same access to them, to fight unjust laws.”
Jerry Schiller, a resident of Greene, said he thinks the resolution “presents a big middle finger to the state of Virginia.”
“Nobody’s coming for anyone’s guns and if they did it would not be hunting rifles or shotguns or home defense weapons, it would be assault rifles, which are another topic, perhaps,” he said. “There’s a great many stickers in the room that say guns save lives. In my mind, penicillin saves lives, seatbelts save lives.”
However, Michael Hoovler, a resident and software engineer, reads the proposed laws in Richmond differently, especially senate bill 16.
“I’m a nerd. I don’t like to get up in front of people for any reason, but a couple of weeks ago when I was looking over SB 16 I realized right then and there I was going to be involved in this in some way,” Hoovler said. “I took an oath to defend the constitution from enemies foreign and domestic as a civilian employee of the intelligence community. And I take that very seriously and if you haven’t read the text of SB 16 and a lot of these other bills, but SB 16, specifically, I really urge you to do so. I’m a father of two, a family man. And I own a lot of firearms; it will cause me to be a felon. Well, I’m not going to give up any of my firearms. Now, you guys can vote tonight to support people like me, who just want to look out for the best welfare my family or not, you know, I mean that’s up to you. I don’t want to say do the right thing as cliché but do the right thing please.”
Monroe District resident Brandon McDaniel noted that laws only work for those who abide by the laws.
“A law to limit access to things that can hurt people sounds like a good idea,” McDaniel said. “In reality, anything can hurt someone. On 9/11 airplanes were used. Tim McVeigh used a truck and fertilizer. We have a morality problem in this country. Criminals do not obey laws. You know, so I ask the governing board of this county to do the right thing. Stand up for our rights. We have laws on the books that would prevent people from committing such crimes like capital punishment.”
Jason Williams, a lifelong resident of Greene, told the board he’s never attended a supervisors meeting because he never felt he had to before.
“You hear people talking about assault weapons bans. Well, anything can be an assault weapon if you hit somebody over the head with it,” Williams said. “Make no mistake, Ralph Northam, and gun-hating politicians in Richmond and Washington, want to take every gun that we have. I’m not a very eloquent speaker. But I’m telling you Greene County residents are good, honest law-abiding people and if these pass your gonna have people that have never broke the law in their life that are going to be outlaws. Hitler, Stalin and every fascist, the first thing they’ve done before they took over was take people’s guns. And you cannot let this go through. It might not have the force of law with it, but it will at least tell the people in Richmond and the people in Washington, here in Greene County, we still believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the second amendment and the God given right to self defense.”
Midway Supervisor Marie Durrer made a motion to accept the first resolution and Monroe District Supervisor David Cox seconded the motion.
At-Large Supervisor Dale Herring said he’s supporting the resolution for the people in the middle of the political spectrum.
“I grew up in Greene County, as well as Mr. Cox. We had hunter safety programs in school. We grew up around guns; it doesn’t mean that we’re against all legislation for guns, it just means we’re comfortable around guns,” Herring said. “We have people on both sides of the political spectrum. We got people on the far right, the far left, but we’ve got Greene County rural Virginians who are concerned with what’s taking place. And all they want the board to do is to make a statement that we hear and understand those concerns and that’s what it comes to. Not the far right, not the far left but the middle of the road so that’s why I am in support of this resolution.”
Monroe Supervisor David Cox agreed it sends a message.
“I do support the resolution on the table at this time,” Cox said. “I feel like it sends a message to Richmond that we, the Board of Supervisors who represent the citizens of Greene County, are watching their every move.”
Stanardsville Supervisor and Board Chair Bill Martin said there’s nothing he doesn’t agree with in the second resolution.
“If you look at it on its face it’s … what I learned in school,” Martin said. “But I can’t get away from the fact that we’re not talking about all 25 functioning amendments. We’re talking about one subject and it’s the second (amendment). I have no doubt where the grand majority of my constituents in the Stanardsville District come out on this issue. To summarize and Mr. Herring alluded to this very strongly, the majority of Greene County residents just want to be heard on this issue. They want Richmond to listen. And importantly, as you have been sharing with us tonight, you want us to listen. So I’m happy to support my neighbors.”
After the Nov. 26 meeting, the county released a survey to the community asking whether the board should approve a resolution to become a Second Amendment sanctuary. County Administrator Mark Taylor told the board that 82% of respondents to the electronic survey agreed with the act while 18% said no. County staff passed around a paper version prior to the Dec. 10 meeting and 196 of 197 respondents said yes.
Using U.S. Census figures, only 10% of the adult population in Greene County—roughly 13,000—were heard on the issue either at the meeting or through the county survey, no matter their stance.
Taylor also noted that while the board budgets funding to the sheriff’s office, it’s up to Sheriff Steven Smith how the money is budgeted for enforcement.
“The enforcement is within his discretion and not constrained by the board’s budget,” Taylor said. “We have no public monies budgeted or available to fund a legal defense or legal fight. I have been involved in local government in the commonwealth of Virginia for 30 years … and I have watched over the course of my career over three decades in local government the erosion of local government’s influence with the General Assembly. And I have watched the rising friction and ultimately, in many cases, animosity between the General Assembly and the localities on various points. It is incumbent upon all Virginians to address their concerns about laws that might be enacted in Richmond to Richmond. We have very little voice and I don’t know if that reality is appreciated by our community. I want the community to be aware that whatever happens here if they are passionate about this issue, they have desperate need to take their message to the state capitol.”