STANARDSVILLE — Greene County residents packed the county meeting room, hallway and rallied outside the county administration building Tuesday night to encourage the county Board of Supervisors to adopt a Second Amendment Sanctuary Resolution.
As of Nov. 28, 22 counties in Virginia, including Madison County, have passed resolutions to become Second Amendment sanctuaries if the state legislature passes gun restrictions in its next session. Many others will be discussing it in the next two weeks, including Louisa County on Monday, Dec. 2, and Nelson County, which will likely vote on Dec. 11.
The item was presented to the board for first review; the board agreed to discuss for a vote at its regular Dec. 10 meeting.
Of more than 225 people present at the building for the meeting, 15 people spoke on the issue. Only one person spoke against the resolution.
Sheriff Steve Smith, who was re-elected on Nov. 5, offered support of the resolution, which garnered him a standing ovation from the 80 or so people in the meeting room itself.
“If you know me at all, you know that I’m a strong Second Amendment person,” Smith said. “I just want to say my oath of office requires me and every deputy sheriff that I appoint to swear to support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the commonwealth of Virginia.”
Smith said several bills prefiled in the state legislature would place him at odds with the oath he swore as sheriff.
“I can assure you, my fellow Greene Countians, that I will unequivocally ... support the Second Amendment and the constitution of this great land. The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” Smith said. “And I promise you, the people this county, I’ve got your back.”
Many of the speakers at the meeting either served in the U.S. military themselves or said family members had served.
“I’ve lived in Greene County for 45 years and not once in 45 years have my guns ever jumped out and shot anybody,” said Carolyn Feazell, adding that her husband, who is buried in Arlington Cemetery, would be “rolling over in his grave” at the thought of gun rights being threatened.
Charles Covington, a 21-year veteran, said Greene has a large population of ex-military people.
“All of them spent decades wearing a uniform to protect our rights,” he said. “And we’re not wearing the uniforms now. We’re asking you to stand the line.”
Greene County Republican Committee Chairman Ed Yensho told the board it’s not enough to pass a resolution. He said he wants the government also to pass the “Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance” the committee has submitted to the board for consideration, which would enshrine the local goverment’s ability to defend gun rights against state laws.
Greg Trojan, an executive member of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, told the board the bills that have been prefiled relating to gun control could make felons out of people who have no criminal intent.
“They could accidentally leave what they’re calling a high-capacity magazine in a box in storage and somewhere along the line law enforcement becomes aware of this and [then] they’re a felon,” he said.
Ruckersville resident Pete Costigan said he does not want to see the county enact any resolution until the General Assembly has met to consider the proposals.
“I am in favor of the following four things: hunters having the right to own and responsibly use appropriate hunting rifles; second, residents, if they choose, having the right to legally own appropriate firearms for their own protection; third, restrictions on the ownership and possession of bump stocks and high-volume magazines; and some form of red flag laws,” Costigan said.
At-Large Supervisor Dale Herring noted several resolutions were in the packet for consideration and asked whether the board had to narrow it down to one before it would be considered for a vote at the next meeting.
“I don’t think it’s for me to decide for the board,” said Chairman Bill Martin, Stanardsville District. “My opinion is that multiple resolutions could be considered at that meeting.”
Midway Supervisor Marie Durrer, who requested the item on the agenda for the Nov. 26 meeting, said she wants to see the board come to a consensus and create a resolution that is Greene-specific.
“Our constitution includes 25 active amendments; I personally took an oath to support all of them,” said Ruckersville Supervisor Michelle Flynn, adding that she hoped a resolution considered by the board would clearly state the board’s intent to uphold all amendments equally.
Martin asked members of the board to submit proposed resolutions to the county administrator by Tuesday for inclusion in the Dec. 10 packet in time for members of the public to see them before the meeting.
The board took a 10 minute recess as many of the members of the public cleared out after this discussion. Yensho said during the recess that while he was pleased with the turnout he is less sure of the board’s response.
“I thought the board’s response was muted,” he said. “I think they were surprised at the number of people that showed up the intensity of resolve. I believe … that if our board doesn’t take a proactive position and enact an ordinance, not just a resolution but an ordinance, telling them what they’re going to do … that the people of Greene County are going to take a stand and it may not be pretty.”
The public has requested that the supervisors consider moving the Dec. 10 meeting to a larger venue due to the number of people who were unable to see or hear what was happening during the meeting. At press time, no decision had been made.