Just over 90 percent of Virginia’s counties have already passed resolutions designating themselves Second Amendment “sanctuaries,” since Democratic lawmakers won control of the state’s legislature on Nov. 5 and have vowed to bring strict gun control to the state.
Some 86 of Virginia’s 95 counties have adopted language intended to deprioritize the enforcement of new gun laws, according to the Washington Examiner. Another 15 cities and towns have also brought up their own sanctuary language, in anticipation of new gun laws proposed by the Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the newly Democratic majority set to take control in 2020.
Stafford, Prince Edward, and York counties were the latest to join the movement, as well as the town of Vinton. Between those towns, cities and counties, a total of 101 Virginia localities have voted for the sanctuary resolutions.
Stafford County is now a sanctuary! That’s the last for tonight and number 101!
— Phil Van Cleave VCDL (@VCDL_ORG) December 18, 2019
“I did not think it would be that high of a number,” said Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins. “It’s an organic thing that just took off after Election Day. Elections have consequences and this is the result. This has truly rocked the conservative, libertarian group’s core. It has really shook a lot of them awake. They are fully awake.”
The sanctuary movement has largely been advanced with the advocacy of the Virginia Citizens Defense League and other smaller gun advocacy groups. The National Rifle Association has reportedly been rather quiet about the movement unfolding throughout its home state of Virginia.
Jenkins himself has been one of the sanctuary county advocates and even raised the idea of deputizing thousands of law abiding gun owners within his county, to extend law enforcement firearms carve outs to those gun owners who would otherwise be affected by new gun laws.
Thank you for your strength in this fight. Virginia Sheriff: ‘I Will Deputize Thousands of Citizens To Protect Their Gun Rights’ https://t.co/E3oFTQEkZC
— Scott Jenkins (@ScottHJenkins) December 17, 2019
Virginia lawmakers will not take up new legislative actions until January at the earliest and the sanctuary resolutions are non binding, but proponents have argued the measures will send a message about the how gun owners in the state feel about new gun restrictions.
According to prior Washington Examiner reporting, Tazewell county also passed a resolution emphasizing its right to form a citizen militia, in addition to its new sanctuary resolution.
During their passage, Board supervisors said the resolution would allow the county to intervene if another form of government attempted to infringe on their second amendment rights, though they weren’t clear how they would grant such protection.
Of the new gun legislation proposed, one lawmaker has proposed a ban on many popular semi-automatic firearms. The ban would include those semi-automatics with fixed magazines greater than 10 rounds, as well as semi-automatic firearms with other features deemed to make them “assault firearms.” The ban also sets magazine capacity limits for rifles, pistols and shotguns as well a weight limit on pistols. Other firearms attachments and features are also included in the bill and the measure would not include an exemption for gun owners who currently possess those listed firearms and accessories.
Northam himself has signaled support for an “assault weapons” ban, though existing owners would be able to retain their banned firearms on the condition they register them with the state.
Tension appears to be building over the issue of enforcing potential new gun laws. Last week Northam himself said there would be “consequences” for localities who refuse to enforce the laws; though he did not say what those consequences would be.
“If we have constitutional laws on the books and law enforcement officers are not enforcing those laws on the books, then there are going to be consequences, but I’ll cross that bridge if and when we get to it,” he said.
One lawmaker, Rep. Donald McEachin, also suggested the National Guard may be called upon to enforce new gun laws.
“Ultimately, I’m not the governor, but the governor may have to nationalize the National Guard to enforce the law,” McEachin said.