Second Amendment Advocates Seek Gun Rights Resolution From Supervisors
A pro-gun rights movement that’s sweeping rural Virginia reached Rockbridge County Monday. Hundreds showed up at a Board of Supervisors meeting to demand passage of a resolution designating Rockbridge as a “sanctuary” for Second Amendment rights.
The Second Amendment giving citizens the right to bear arms, declared Jared Lawhorn, “has nothing to do with hunting. It has everything to do with protecting us from tyrannical rule. … It’s one of the major deterrents to a land invasion. That’s what the founding fathers had in mind.”
According to Lawhorn, “There’s nothing common sense about gun laws. More gun laws will not protect us – they’ll just make us more vulnerable.”
Second Amendment advocates are pushing for sanctuary status as a response to the election earlier this month in which Democrats gained control of both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. Now in charge of both the executive and legislative branches of state government, Democrats have pledged to enact gun control measures such as universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines, and limiting handgun purchases to one per month.
Of the 300-400 people who crowded into the Maury River Middle School gymnasium, where the meeting was moved because of the huge turnout, not all approved of Second Amendment sanctuary designation. Of the 27 citizens who addressed the supervisors on the issue, eight opposed the designation.
“I’m a gun owner and I think it would be a bad idea to pass this type of [resolution],” said Jeff Scott. There are limitations to all rights, he asserted. The First Amendment doesn’t give an individual “blanket permission to say anything. You can’t shout ‘fire’ in a theater and there are libel laws.” Likewise, the Second Amendment doesn’t grant “blanket permission to own any kind of weapon. You can’t own a machine gun or a tank.”
Scott raised the specter of the county, if it passes such a resolution, being held liable for individuals acting in defiance of gun laws. He noted that no new laws have been passed by the General Assembly, which doesn’t convene until January. “This discussion is premature.”
B.J. Flint said he came home one evening recently to discover his basement door open, indicating someone had broken in. With his 6-year-old child by his side, Flint said he was armed with a gun and prepared to use it. “I think everyone needs a gun who knows how to use it,” he said. “I want to keep my guns.”
Tim Goodbar cited the Holocaust as an example of what can happen when guns are taken away. He questioned a proposal to prohibit children from owning guns. He said his late 13-year-old granddaughter was an avid bear hunter and would have been at the hearing to defend her gun rights, if she were still alive. Children, he said, need to be taught how to safely use firearms before they’re 18.
Ann Massie, who taught Constitutional law at Washington and Lee University, said the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative whose opinions concurred strongly with the right to bear arms, acknowledged that the right is limited, “that various gun regulations are permissible.” These include prohibitions against the mentally ill and convicted felons from owning guns and rules against taking firearms into “sensitive places.”
“I would suggest that no one in this room knows which gun proposals [under consideration] would be unconstitutional,” said Massie. “That’s for the courts to decide. It makes no sense to pass a sanctuary resolution. Are we going to harbor lawbreakers?”
“I strongly support the Second Amendment, but I admire those on the other side who are standing up [for what they believe],” said Tom Mc-Craw. Stating his opposition to placing restrictions on firearms, McCraw asked, “After gun registration, what comes next? How do you get a criminal to give the serial number on his weapon? It’s like the saying, ‘If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.’”
When he joined the U.S. armed forces, Steve Hart said, “I swore an oath to defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I believe in defending the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights.” He suggested Rockbridge County “be a sanctuary for all rights.”
Of the sanctuary resolution, Kery-Lyn Coleman asked, “What message are we sending to our children if we tell the government to ignore laws?” She contended that “Validated research supports gun safety measures. Research shows background checks work. Raising the age of gun ownership save lives.” Addressing the supervisors directly, she added, “You, as government officials, are entrusted with the power to protect society.”
Ted Chalgren said he’s concerned “about sanctuaries for people who invade our country illegally. He said he is “a strong supporter of the Constitution and a strong supporter of families. The Apostle Paul said, ‘He is an infidel who doesn’t protect his family.’”
Quoting a passage from the Declaration of Independence on citizens “having the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Galen Lemmon said the Second Amendment “enshrines the right to life.” He maintained that the right to bear arms prevents genocide. “History is filled with examples,” he said. Without this right, he contended, millions more would have been killed in the last century than were.
“I support us being a sanctuary county,” said Stephanie Petty. “I’m concerned that people who already have guns are going to become criminals. People are going to automatically be labeled as criminals for already having guns.”
David Reynolds admonished the supervisors to “support Second Amendment rights.” He said Chicago has the strictest gun laws but the most shootings.
At the conclusion of the 90-minute hearing, supervisors chairman Jay Lewis, with the acquiescence of other Board members, directed County Administrator Spencer Suter to look at resolutions adopted by other counties and prepare a draft to be considered at the supervisors’ next meeting on Dec. 9
“Consideration of citizen concerns regarding the Second Amendment” is to be an agenda item at that meeting, which is to be held in the Rockbridge County High School auditorium to accommodate what’s expected to be a large crowd.