By Cory L. Higgs and Debbie Hall
In a unanimous vote Monday, and against the advice of legal counsel, the Patrick County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution making the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
Patrick now is among a handful of localities in Virginia and localities in other states, to adopt similar resolutions.
County Attorney Alan Black said some of the wording contained in the resolution is prohibited by state laws.
One of the sticking points in the document was that the county will oppose efforts to unconstitutionally restrict rights provided by the constitutions of the U.S. and Virginia. The resolution also stated the county would not use public county funds to restrict Second Amendment rights or to aid in the unnecessary and unconstitutional restriction of those rights.
“You can’t pass a resolution like this unless such resolution is authorized by the statute. The resolution, as written, is prohibited by this (15.2-915) statute,” Black said.
Officials in Appomattox County declared it to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary in a Monday vote. Similar resolutions have been approved by governing boards in Carroll and Campbell counties, according to Lock Boyce, of the Mayo River District.
“If there is some problem with the resolution, can we at least send a letter to the governor’s office pointing out to him that some, not all, but some of his proposed gun legislation could wind up making felons out of many people in Patrick County, and that areas of this county are different from other areas in the state.”
Black said a letter would be an acceptable alternative to the resolution.
Boyce said that while he agreed with “some of what the governor wants to do, it was some of the other things, like not allowing children under the age of 18 to possess, handle or have a firearm” that prompted him to support the resolution. A ten-round clip proposal “is just not going to work in Patrick County, I don’t think, and there were some other things that I didn’t like,” he said.
“I think the strongest part of it was that he (Gov. Ralph Northam) was going to allow localities to make gun control legislation on their own that would be more severe than what the state law requests,” Boyce said. “That would be alright because I think what applies to Patrick County doesn’t necessarily work well in inner city Richmond or in Fairfax County,” Boyce said.
“That last comment is exactly what this statute prohibits,” Black said.
But, if approved, it would “allow the localities to make and pass more severe gun legislation, but also allow places like this not to pass more severe legislation because it doesn’t fit our population,” Boyce said. “It doesn’t fit what goes on here. In a rural county like this, you need legislation that is more realistic than what some in the new legislature and the governor himself have proposed, and that was the whole idea behind this resolution.”
A new regulation regarding ten-round clips doesn’t apply in Patrick County, Boyce said. “To a certain extinct, background checks” on the transfer of firearms also would not apply. “I can’t give my child a gun without having to go dig up” a Federal Firearms License (FFL), Boyce asked. “That seems a little excessive to me, so I think if we just write a letter that just pointed out to the governor that there are differences in the environment for firearms between Patrick County and the rest of the state or large areas of the state. We’re not a suburban or urban area. I think what’s happening is this resolution or something very similar to it, which you say we can’t pass legally, will eventually be passed by most of these other localities,” Boyce said, adding that many localities in Indiana and Illinois also have adopted similar resolutions.
Jane Fulk, of the Dan River District, said “if all we can do is a letter, then I suggest we do a letter. I didn’t have any problem with the resolution, but if it’s not legal, I think we should go on and do the letter.”
Crystal Harris said she strongly supports the Second Amendment.
“Just a letter may not do,” said Harris, of the Smith River District. “We need to let him (Northam) know that we support the Constitution and our Second Amendment. Legal or illegal, this is not right. We need to speak out and let him know we support our Second Amendment and that we will fight for it.”
Black recommended that the county consider addressing specific proposals rather than adopting the boiler plate resolution.
Karl Wiess asked whether counties that previously approved the resolution were in violation of state law.
“The resolution itself violates that statute,” Black said.
“If they’re in violation, I’m ready to get in violation too,” said Weiss, of the Blue Ridge District and vice board chairman. “I suggest we pass this resolution as written. If they’re going to haul us all off to jail, Carroll County and the rest of the counties, I’m ready to go too. But I suggest we pass it as written.”
Rickie Fulcher said the resolution did not state that the county would not enforce the law.
“It’s simply saying that as a body, this body is supporting the Second Amendment right of the citizens of the United States as well as the citizens of Patrick County. All we’re doing is making a statement from the governing body that we uphold the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution for the right to hold and bear arms, and it needs to pass,” said Fulcher, of the Peters Creek District.
“It says we will resist efforts by the state to restrict Second Amendment rights,” Black said, and reiterated his recommendation that the board address specific proposals.
“That seems a bit cumbersome, and looking over this, it says we’re just going to resist any infringement of the Second Amendment. … It doesn’t say we’re not going to enforce the law. If the state passes a law, then we will have to deal with that law. All we’re doing is making a statement that we uphold the Second Amendment,” Boyce said.
“I say we join our neighbors in doing everything we can do to stop this,” Weiss said.
The motion to approve the resolution was unanimously approved.