Gun-rights activist group the Virginia Citizens Defense League is lobbying 193 local jurisdictions to declare they will not ban guns. The proposed Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions vary, but contain language stating that a jurisdiction “shall not exercise any authority granted to it … to regulate or prohibit the otherwise legal purchase, possession, or transfer of firearms or ammunition.”
VCDL president Philip Van Cleave said 22 jurisdictions have already passed his group’s non-binding resolutions. Van Cleave said the resolutions allow politicians to stand up against political maneuvers designed to inconvenience gun owners.
The resolutions are a reaction to § 15.2-915(E) of the Code of Virginia, new legislation allowing local governments to prohibit firearms in government buildings, parks, roads and at events requiring a city permit. The legislation does not itself prohibit guns, and comes in the wake of a deadly shooting in the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.
Increasing local gun restrictions makes it difficult for law-abiding gun owners to know when and where they are allowed to carry their guns. Van Cleave said many law enforcement officers support his resolution, since they do not want to waste time arresting peaceful people who might accidentally violate the laws. However, the resolutions do not add any new rights. Local jurisdictions who do not want to add gun restrictions do not have to.
On July 27, Powhatan County Supervisor Larry Nordvig argued that these resolutions support a tradition of freedom and help protect constitutional rights.
“It is my hope that this board has the courage to pass on to our posterity the same freedoms that have been passed on to us,” Nordvig said.
Powhatan County unanimously approved the resolution.
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted against a similar resolution on December 3, 2019. Supervisor Kristen Umstattd said she considers herself a strong advocate of Second Amendment rights. She acknowledged that courts sometimes interpret those rights to be more restricted than gun advocates say is correct.
Nevertheless, Umstattd said, “I think this is unnecessary. … It just restates our oath of office [to protect the Constitution and Virginia law], it doesn’t accomplish anything, and so I’m not sure why it’s before us tonight.”
On August 20, the Richmond City Council will consider expanding local firearms laws. Mayor Levar Stoney proposed the new regulation, which will ban firearms specifically during events requiring a city permit. The mayor’s press release specifically states that the new provisions in Virginia law enable the proposed resolution. The city has already used its new authority to ban firearms in city buildings and parks.
The new Richmond City regulations could ban firearms at protests similar to the “Lobby Day” protests earlier this year. On January 20, 2020, the VCDL helped organize a controversial gun-rights protest in downtown Richmond. Fear of violence at the event prompted Governor Ralph Northam to temporarily ban all firearms from the state capitol grounds. Protesters outside the grounds within Richmond openly carried guns. CNN reported that despite concerns of violence, the protest was peaceful.
Van Cleave will continue lobbying Virginia cities and counties to pass the VCDL resolution. The VCDL also wants local jurisdictions to advocate for withdrawal of gun control legislation in the General Assembly.
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