Fluvanna supervisors pass Second Amendment sanctuary resolution

By Heather Michon, correspondent

Fluvanna joined over 80 Virginia counties on Wednesday night as the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution declaring a “Second Amendment sanctuary” by a vote of 3-2.

More than 450 people filled the auditorium at Central Elementary and 40-50 residents spoke during the public comment periods before and after the vote.

Most speakers touched on many of the same points that were made at the previous week’s meeting: that new legislation proposed by the Democratic majority in Richmond for the upcoming session would outlaw common semiautomatic weapons and instantly make gun owners into felons; that disarming law-abiding citizens would leave them vulnerable to crime and violence, and that “red flag” laws could be used maliciously to remove guns owned by lawful citizens.

This wasn’t about gun rights, said Fluvanna resident Dave Johnson. “It’s about constitutional rights. It’s about a well-regulated militia. So who is the militia? This is the militia,” he said, gesturing to the crowd behind him.

“Ralph Northam is trying to make it so the militia cannot fight back if the government were to become tyrannical,” said Ciara Race, a young Fork Union resident. “America is the greatest country in the world because it is the only country that has a government, not a government that has a country. It is also the best because we have rights and freedom. We cannot allow the government that we control to ruin the best country in the world.”

Some peppered their comments with quotes from early American political figures and dark warnings about chaos suffered by other countries when dictatorial governments eliminated private gun ownership.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please understand that the members of both constitutions, the U.S. and Virginia, has absolutely nothing to do with hunting for recreational shooting,” said Eddie Wood of Fork Union. “Those amendments work and are there to provide myself and millions of Virginians the ability to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government. And let’s be very clear. These proposed bills in the Virginia legislature are tyrannical.”

They asked the supervisors to vote in favor of a sanctuary resolution to protect their rights and to send a message to Richmond, although a few said the resolution did not go far enough.

Matthew Kolczynski said if the General Assembly passed a law the supervisors thought was unconstitutional “you need to be ready to file a lawsuit the next day.”

“If it’s possible, I’d like the supervisors to consider an ordinance with a little more teeth,” said Mark Poulin of Scottsville. “That says that the county sheriff may charge state and federal agents who want to enforce these laws that are unconstitutional with crimes themselves.”

Unlike the previous week’s meeting, a few people did speak out against the resolution.

Curtis Putnam of Palmyra said he didn’t oppose the Constitution or the Second Amendment but “I have never seen such outcry aroused by something that may never come to pass.”

“There is a proper means to enhance or propose legislation. This is not it. As a republic, we designate our representatives to calmly consider the rights and responsibilities of our citizens. What is happening here is an end-run to create havoc.”

Putnam added that the effort to push counties to adopt sanctuary resolutions was “not a groundswell,” but instead orchestrated by interest groups “to make maximum impact.”

The audience, which had raucously applauded several previous speakers, began to boo and jeer. Putnam turned to face the crowd and took a bow before returning to his seat.

Chair Mike Sheridan (Columbia) gaveled for quiet and raised his voice above the crowd.

“If we respect the Constitution, we respect everyone who speaks about it,” he said. “So if we’re going to preach that we respect the constitution, respect it.”

A couple of speakers subsequently pushed back on Putnam’s assertion that this was not an organic grassroots movement. However, the “sanctuary” movement has been heavily promoted by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a nonprofit pro-gun lobbying group. Hundreds of audience members were wearing large orange “Guns Save Lives” stickers bearing the VCDL website address. The group has also circulated a model resolution that counties have been adapting for their own use.

Later, Richard Bucci of Palmyra said, “let’s stop and reflect on what you’re being asked to do by this group. It’s to create a sanctuary so that we don’t respect the law of the land.”

While he heard the arguments made by previous speakers, he wondered if “that means we only obey the laws that we like?”

After nearly two hours of public comments, the supervisors took up the resolution.

Supervisor Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) was the first to speak.

“I believe in the Constitution. I believe in its amendments. I believe in the Bill of Rights. I believe it in its entirety. I don’t just pick one,” he said. “And I also believe that what makes our government work well is that we support and obey our laws and that we believe in a process that allows it to be challenged, and to be viewed by the courts and to be viewed by voters. So, it’s hard for me to say: ‘Okay, I want to take the Second Amendment and put it above everything else in the Constitution.’”

O’Brien said he appreciated everyone’s comments and that he had learned a great deal about guns and their importance to individuals, but he could not, ultimately, prioritized the Second Amendment over everything else.

Supervisor Don Weaver (Cunningham) said he had seen what happened after a society was stripped of its firearms while serving in Germany in the 1950s. “I certainly will be supporting this resolution,” he said as the audience erupted in cheers.

Their mood shifted when Supervisor Mozell Booker (Fork Union) began to speak.

Booker said she had come away from the previous week’s meeting feeling like she had “some work to do” to educate herself on the bills likely to be proposed in the upcoming General Assembly.

After consulting with the Board’s legislative liaison, who summarized and explained the pending bills, Booker said she believed that many of the worst fears about the impact of proposed legislation were inaccurate.

She also read through emails and comments from the public. “I got tons of emails from people who oppose this,” she said, adding there was “fear and a feeling of being intimidated.” But “I am not voting because there is a ton of people on either side. I’m going to vote on facts,” she said.

“You say you are law-abiding citizens and I believe you. And the people who bring the bills are law-abiding citizens too,” she said, adding that she presumed Governor Northam and many of the delegates and state senators in charge of the new legislation were gun-owners themselves.

Booker made it clear she would not vote for the resolution and did not appreciate being forced to vote on it at all, which drew a noisy response from the audience.

She challenged them to follow the legislation as it moved through the General Assembly “and if you see them going in a direction that you don’t like, then all you get in your cars and you go to Richmond.”

Supervisor Patricia Eager (Palmyra) said simply: “I support the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment, and I don’t believe the state has the right to challenge our Founding Fathers and our Constitution.”

Eager made the motion to pass the resolution, and Weaver seconded it. With Sheridan voting in the affirmative, and Booker and O’Brien voting no, the resolution passed 3-2, leading to loud, sustained cheers and applause from the crowd.

What impact these resolutions will have is unclear. Legal experts point out that Virginia counties don’t have the authority to defy state law. As such, they are primarily symbolic.

The General Assembly will meet from January 8 to March 7.




















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