It was standing room only at last week’s board of supervisors meeting as citizens petitioned county leaders to approve an resolution preserving the Second Amendment.
Rural counties throughout the Commonwealth have been approving similar resolutions, dubbing themselves as Second Amendment Sanctuaries. The movement began after the recent election in which Democrats gained control of the House and Senate in the General Assembly. Paired with a Democratic governor, many worry that gun legislation will be passed infringing on citizens’ rights to “bear arms.”
The Madison County Republican Committee approved a resolution requesting the county board of supervisors to adopt a Second Amendment Preservation resolution. The resolution upholds the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions which express the right to bear arms and opposes any law that would unconstitutionally restrict those rights.
Citizens lined up to express their feelings on the resolution during the public comment portion of last week’s board meeting.
Leon resident Waverly Banks said the Second Amendment is “probably the most coveted, yet most controversial [right] we have.”
“Without it, we’re subject to the loss of other rights,” he added. “It’s like trying to take the sugar out of a cake after the ingredients are mixed. Without sugar, it’s not a cake. This [would be] giving up the work of our forefathers. The nation was built on the Constitution and Bill of Rights and it’s the responsibility of Americans to protect those rights. We’re not asking you to spend millions on a project; we’re asking for a piece of paper.”
Banks thanked the supervisors for considering the resolution. Kim Smith agreed.
“The Second Amendment is what ensures America’s freedom,” she said.
Colleen Stevens pointed out that the Constitution doesn’t give rights, but actually protects them from tyrannical government. She said legal gun owners actually prevent crime.
“Gun control laws take guns out of law abiding citizens’ hands,” she said. “Criminals don’t follow laws. This will do nothing to prevent them [from having guns].”
Steve Hoffman noted that citizens are already having trouble with their First Amendment rights being infringed upon and will likely see problems with the Fourth Amendment as well. Hoffman spent 34 years as a firearms instructor, some of those as a concealed carry permit instructor.
“For the first time in 25 years, the governor has the majority and don’t you think he won’t use it,” he said. “Common sense gun control will only get worse. It won’t quit. I’m fortunate to live in Madison County in a gun-friendly society.”
Thomas Chew, who said he was accidentally shot at 16 by a friend, said it’s not the gun’s fault when a shooting occurs. Like Stevens, he said gun laws are not going to make criminals turn in their weapons.
Sheriff Erik Weaver said the Madison County Sheriff’s Office will protect citizen rights to keep arms and is in full support of the sanctuary resolution.
American Legion member Gerry Stephenson pointed out Senate Bill 16, which would prohibit the sale, transport, etc. of a firearm capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition and shotguns holding more than seven rounds. He said he recently examined a 1906 firearm that would need to be destroyed under the legislation since it’s capable of holding more than 10 rounds. He said similarly, a 1911 Colt which only holds 10 rounds could be under the same regulations since an extended magazine could be put in it. He said the term “assault weapon” would need to be more clearly defined.
Supervisors agreed with the citizens. Chairman Clay Jackson said Second Amendment rights are an American issue and he supports them. He also said opposition to future laws infringing on those rights is likely to be something that ends up in the Supreme Court. Supervisor Jonathon Weakley agreed.
“This is spreading through the state and I understand why,” he said. “I expect a challenge, but we represent the people.”
“We’re elected to protect you guys,” supervisor Amber Foster added. “This prevents infringement on Second Amendment rights.”
Supervisor Charlotte Hoffman agreed, saying the resolution has to be done for the citizens and that she’s 100 percent in favor of it.
The resolution was passed 4-1 with supervisor Kevin McGhee casting the lone dissenting vote.
Also voicing opposition was Madison resident Cindy Taylor. Taylor contacted board members via email prior to the meeting as she was unable to attend in person due to volunteering commitments. She said the Second Amendment Sanctuary measure is not only unnecessary, but dangerous and an affront to the majority of Virginians who support moderate gun safety reform measures proven effective by other states.
“These include background checks on all gun sales and extreme risk protection orders,” she wrote. “Contrary to the overheated rhetoric of extremist groups such as the Virginia Citizens Defense League, these measures do not infringe upon Constitutional rights. Extreme risk protection orders involve an extensive judicial review, and have been praised by law enforcement officers in others states for preventing gun suicides and incidents of gun violence, including school shootings.”
She said the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the Second Amendment doesn’t prohibit reasonable measures to restrict sales and ownership of guns. In the 2006 case, DC versus Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia noted that the right is not unlimited and is not a right to keep and carry any weapon in any manner and for whatever purpose.
Taylor said not only would she be disappointed to see the county adopt sanctuary language, but also fears it would put the county at risk should citizens perceive it as a legitimate legal measure with state legislation not applying.
So far, 23 localities in Virginia have been declared Second Amendment Sanctuaries. Leaders in more than 50 localities will be discussing the issue in the next few weeks.