Hundreds gather in support of second amendment sanctuary status

Another public hearing slated for Dec. 11

By Heather Michon


More than 250 people assembled at the Fluvanna County Courthouse on Wednesday (Dec 4) to give public comments to urge the Board of Supervisors to join dozens of Virginia counties in declaring Fluvanna a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.”

The movement for county governments to declare “sanctuary” status has grown since Democrats won majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly in early November. Legislation that opponents say would essentially outlaw private gun ownership has already been drafted for introduction when the new session starts in January.

By Wednesday’s meeting, more than 35 Virginia counties had passed resolutions vowing to defy any new gun-control laws handed down by Richmond.

No resolution was on the agenda on Wednesday. After completing some business, supervisors opened the floor to public comments.

“There’s no way we’re going to hear everyone,” Chair Mike Sheridan (Columbia) warned at the top of the comment period. He said they would hold an additional comment period on Wednesday, Dec.11 at West Central Elementary.

Nearly two dozen people spoke over more than ninety minutes of comments. The courtroom was filled to capacity, with an overflow crowd watching the meeting on a video feed in the nearby County Administration Building.

Speakers were almost unanimous in decrying what they saw as an assault on their fundamental rights by Governor Ralph Northam and a group of mostly northern Virginian Democrats.

“What I’m most concerned about is what our governor with his majority is threatening to do to change our Constitution,” said Susan Morris. “I mean, what part of ‘infringe’ does he not understand?”

Karl Partner of Palmyra said a resolution would “send a strong message to Richmond that we here in rural Virginia will not fold to the whims of more damaging Second Amendment laws, imposed from the left, to chisel away our constitution Second Amendment Bill of Rights.”

“Here in the United States,” Partner added, “we hold the right to be citizens, not subjects.”

Several speakers were survivors of trauma or violence.

Karen Hutchinson of Palmyra told the audience about an incident in her childhood where armed gunmen broke into the family home and held them at gunpoint. Her mother was eventually able to drive them off with a shotgun. “The fear that I felt that day will never leave me,” she said. “But I know I will always be protecting myself from this point forward.”

Retired Fluvanna County Sheriff Jackie Gillespie, who was involved in a shootout with armed robbers off Lake Monticello Road in 2016, said, “I’m here today because of the Second Amendment.”

Some were concerned that proposed laws would turn them into overnight felons by outlawing common types of firearms or put in place age restrictions that would prevent them from teaching their children to hunt. Others felt limiting magazines to a maximum of ten rounds would put them at a disadvantage in an attack.

Self-protection was a common theme.

Laura Painter of Palmyra said “I don’t believe that the sheriff’s department or the Lake Monticello police are tasked with my personal safety. It’s just not possible to individually protect every resident in the county. I’m asking you to please vote in a manner that will allow me to continue to have the ability to defend myself.”

“I’m not some raving maniac sitting in the bushes waiting to hurt anyone,” said William Eubank, a retired Marine living in Scottsville. “Quite the opposite. I sincerely believe that anyone is with me is the safest person in the world. Because I will do whatever I can, whatever I’ve been trained to do to help and save that person.”

With a somewhat isolated home, he believed the ability to defend himself was vital. “A lot of people believe that law enforcement is there to prevent crime. And that’s a good idea, but it doesn’t happen that way, it doesn’t work. Law enforcement is not to prevent crime. Law enforcement is to investigate crime,” he said. “I am there alone. I have nothing to defend myself with except for my handgun.”

Nobody spoke in opposition to a sanctuary resolution, although several submitted written comments before the meeting.

After public comments, supervisors shared some thoughts on the issue.

Sheridan shared a story about a frightening incident when his wife received a threatening phone call while she was home alone. Before racing home, “I told her ‘go to the gun safe, get the shotgun out and load it,’” he said. It turned out it was a hoax call, but “I’m telling you right now, that put the most fear in me that has ever been in my body.”

Supervisor Mozell Booker (Fork Union) said she wanted to know more about the laws being proposed because she had been hearing several things that didn’t sound accurate to her.

She said one constituent had recently told her that this was just the beginning and that the state was going to stop people from hunting, because, they said, “Northerners don’t want us to hunt.”

“The challenge here is the process, right?” said Supervisor Tony O’Brien (Rivanna). “We don’t write the bills, we don’t pass the bills, we don’t decide if they are constitutional. That’s not our job. And I think that inherent in the oath is that we abide by the laws that are presented by the people who pass those laws.”

“I fundamentally find this a very challenging slippery slope,” he continued, “not because I don’t have respect for the concerns that you’re sharing with regarding the Second Amendment— as with all the amendments in the Constitution, as with all of our duties that we swore to defend the constitution—but you can’t cherry-pick an individual item in the fear that this might happen. There’s a process that defines what happens if it is unconstitutional.”

“I think I see it in a little bit of a different way,” said Supervisor Patricia Eager (Palmyra). Those in Richmond “are breaking the law by taking away, by changing the Constitution.”

Late Friday night (Dec 6), the county released a draft of the resolution they will consider on Wednesday, December 11.

The key passage states that the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors “wishes to express its intent to oppose, within the limits of the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia, any efforts to restrict or infringe the rights of its law abiding citizens of sound mind as guaranteed by the above-referenced provisions of those Constitutions and to use lawful means at its disposal to protect the right of those citizens to keep and bear arms, including, among others, through legal action, the power of appropriation of public funds, and the right to petition for redress of grievances.”

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