By Brandon Martin
Both sides of the gun-control debate addressed a Jan. 28 meeting of the Henry County Board of Supervisors.
Former supervisor Andy Parker, a resident in the Reed Creek District, voiced his opposition to the board’s approval of the county becoming a Second Amendment (2A) Sanctuary.
Parker, whose daughter Alison was slain in an act of gun violence in 2015, said the county’s approval of the 2A resolution was “a pointless and gratuitous gesture solely designed to placate conspiracy theorists and those with a senseless paranoia about gun confiscation.”
He broached legal concerns regarding the movement, and quoted Tazewell County Administrator Eric Young’s description of 2A sanctuaries as “unconstitutional and worthless.” Parker also addressed the issue of the enforcement of state laws by the Henry County Sheriff’s Office.
“What are you going to do about it,” he asked the board rhetorically. “Are you going to instruct Sheriff Perry to defy an Extreme Risk Protective Order? If you do defy the laws of the state, are you prepared for the consequences?”
Extreme Risk Protective Orders, otherwise known as “red flag” laws, allow judges to issue temporary warrants to seize guns from someone if the person is found to be a danger to themselves or others. Pending a judge’s favorable ruling, the subject of the order would be required to surrender any guns to law enforcement or a third party.
Red flag laws are a major concern for gun-right advocates.
Before the start of 2020 Virginia General Assembly, Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, said “red flag laws, to me, are unconstitutional because the person would have their guns taken away without a hearing. You’ve got to prove that you might not do something. That’s exactly opposite to our fundamental legal system of being innocent until proved guilty.”
Even with the opposition against red flag laws, the Virginia Senate passed a bill supporting such a measure. The proposal is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam after its expected passage by the House of Delegates.
Residents from across the Commonwealth gathered in Richmond on Jan. 20 to participate in a pro-gun rally during Virginia Citizens Defense League’s annual Lobby Day also showed their opposition to potential gun-control bills passed by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
The rally, Parker said, was designed to “intimidate” legislators from passing “common sense constitutionally valid legislation” while supporters, at the time, said the event was largely unifying.
Rev. Tyler Millner, the pastor of Morning Star Holy Church in Axton, also said he was concerned about the board passing the 2A sanctuary resolution and the rally being held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“I was even more concerned after guns were brought to the Capital on Martin Luther King’s holiday, the drum major for peace,” he said. “It just blew my mind that that kind of rally would be held on the day that we celebrate the drum major for peace and non-violence.”
Millner added that “I’m not against gathering and expressing one’s wishes for the government. That is our right, but an opportunity was missed that you would pass a resolution on Martin Luther King’s holiday and say we believe in the beloved community.”
The statements by Millner were part of his overall message to the county board as he urged officials to bring the community together on issues ranging from city-county relations on reversion and positive societal aspirations.
After the closed session and when the supervisors reconvened for the 6 p.m. meeting, gun-rights and 2A sanctuary advocates were heard.
Joshua Jennings, owner of Guns Gear & Ammo in Cascade, spoke on behalf of his Henry County customers. He proposed that the county seek private funding for the sheriff’s office to avoid any threats of budgetary constraints by the state.
“I suggest that a county overseen committee should be formed to raise private funding for the sheriff’s department,” Jennings said. “No county should have a constitutional officer beholden to Richmond when his/her oath is contrary to the tyranny with which Richmond is demanding.”
He also said that withholding funds from the counties that refuse to enforce laws proposed by Northam would be “a clear violation of our rights as citizens as well as abrogation of the duties of said officials and elected bodies.”
Jennings said “forming a local funding committee would benefit the region as well as provide stability for law enforcement activities.”
In addition to independent financing for the sheriff’s department, Jennings also suggested that the county recognize the already-forming militias in the Commonwealth.
“It would be to the best interest of all to provide county oversight and leadership for these patriots,” he said. “Militias are defensive tools providing county-level leadership (and) will organize, prepare and protect against loose cannons and lone wolves. Providing this framework for the patriotic volunteers will not only make these militias more safe and protected but could prove to be an asset to the region.”
Jennings said that the militias are not requesting funding but rather “a request of legitimacy to those willing to volunteer.”
One resident stepped forward after Jennings to oppose the characterization Millner made of the gun rally in Richmond on MLK day.
“In my eyes, we represented what that day was supposed to be,” said Samuel Smith, of Ridgeway. “I stood in Richmond that day freezing cold like everybody else. I stood side-by-side with members of women’s rights groups, the LGBT community, Antifa. It did not matter that day if we were white, black, Asian, Hispanic…we came together that day and that’s what Dr. King’s vision was. We unified for a reason.”