Gloucester considers Second Amendment Sanctuary status

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Nov 26, 2019 - 03:21 PM

The Gloucester County Board of Supervisors will consider adopting a resolution establishing Gloucester as a Sanctuary County for Second Amendment Rights during its meeting Tuesday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the colonial courthouse.

The seven-point resolution charges that legislation that was introduced this year in the Virginia General Assembly and recently in the U.S. Congress could have the effect of “infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

It states further that the board of supervisors “wishes to express its deep commitment to the rights of all citizens of Gloucester County to keep and bear arms” and “to express opposition to any law” that would unconstitutionally restrict those rights.

Beyond that, the resolution states that the county will not use public funds to restrict Second Amendment rights, but will use “legal action, the power of appropriation of public funds, and the right to petition for redress of grievances” to protect gun rights.

What do people think?

Gloucester Sheriff Darrell Warren said he supports the resolution as a symbolic gesture to try to send a message to the legislature that residents “are opposed to additional legislation that we fear will impose on our Second Amendment rights.”

The county can’t overrule state law with a supervisors’ resolution, said Warren, so he suggests that people personally reach out to their state senators and delegates and let them know that they don’t support many of the gun laws that have been proposed.

Warren isn’t against everything that has been proposed by legislators, and he mentioned one proposal he thought made sense. It’s currently against the law for someone with a concealed weapons permit to carry their concealed weapon into a place that sells alcohol and to drink alcohol while there. He said that the proposal he agrees with would extend that prohibition to public festivals that serve alcohol. An infraction would be a Class 2 misdemeanor, he said.

But Warren thought that some of the proposed legislation due to be presented during the 2020 session would not be helpful. One amendment in particular greatly expands the definition of what constitutes an assault firearm. Senate Bill 16, presented by incoming Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Springfield), would make a semi-automatic centerfire rifle with a magazine capacity in excess of 10 rounds unlawful to own or carry, said Warren.

This covers all AR-15 style firearms, one of the most popular firearms. If the law were passed, he said, owners of the weapon would have to turn it in, give it to someone outside the commonwealth, or be considered a felon, suddenly creating a criminal out of a person who was a law-abiding citizen before the law had been passed.

Warren said that some people feel that government efforts to record the make, model and serial number of every gun a person owns “is the first step toward confiscation.” He said he thought more people would find the idea of universal background checks acceptable if they were used only to determine the fitness of an individual to own a gun, and not to capture identifying information on every gun.

“I’m 100 percent supportive of responsible gun ownership,” said Warren, “but at the end of the day, these laws will make things worse. People that are criminals are not coming to turn their guns in.”

Gloucester resident Jason Frazier also supports the resolution, and he said he knows a lot of other people who do, as well. While some people think that the reason for the Second Amendment was to allow people to carry guns to protect themselves and their families on their homesteads, he said, “the biggest reason was to control tyranny in the government.” Guns are tools, just like a socket wrench, he said, and problems arise because of the people that use the guns, not the guns themselves.

Frazier said the resolution Gloucester is considering would protect people who own firearms from having their guns taken away.

“I don’t want to give them up,” he said. “I bought them legally, I’m not a felon, I don’t have a criminal record, I don’t have a mental problem, and I haven’t done anything wrong … I feel safer knowing that people have guns on them.”

Just like Warren, Frazier is in favor of some gun laws. He said he supports background checks at gun dealerships and restrictions that prevent people with mental illnesses from buying or possessing guns.

“I’m not in favor of doing harm to anyone,” he said, “but if someone is going to do something to somebody and you take away my method for stopping them, it puts people in danger.”

Dr. Ella Webster of Gloucester, the Democratic candidate who lost to Del. Keith Hodges earlier this month in her bid for the House of Delegates, said that the Second Amendment is the law and that she is neither pro- nor anti-gun. She said that Senate Bill 16, a gun control bill proposed by Sen. Saslaw “is probably not going to pass.”

While she’s not in favor of the clause in the bill that “converts legally bought weapons into illegal ones,” Webster said that clause, which deals with a ban on assault weapons, is not unconstitutional, as gun rights advocates are claiming. She said that the idea had already challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court and withstood the challenge, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing the opinion.

The resolution being proposed for Gloucester “carries no legal weight” because “state law trumps local law,” said Webster, and in Virginia, which is a Dillon Rule state, local governments are limited to the powers expressly granted them by the state. She said the proposed resolution will only create extra conflict and that the way for a person to object to any proposed bill is to contact their state legislators.

“We still don’t have a plan for sustainable infrastructure and replacement of school buildings, and test numbers are not up to the state average,” Webster said. “I’m much more concerned about the state of Gloucester’s schools.”

In other matters, the board will:

—Hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. on an application by Waste Management Disposal Services of Virginia, which is seeking to develop a surface mineral mining site;

—Commend the service of retiring supervisor Andrew James Jr. with a resolution;

—Hear the quarterly update from the Virginia Department of Transportation;

—Have updates on the 2019 Floodplain Management Plan, the Program for Public Information, and the 2020 Reassessment;

—Consider a resolution accepting the annual audit;

—Consider a request for an additional appropriation to accelerate the school’s request for a bus communication system’

—Consider possible modifications to the board’s operating procedures, and

—Hold a closed meeting to discuss cybersecurity threats and proposed measures to prevent and address them.