By Brandon Martin
Martinsville City Council adopted a resolution to reaffirm the city’s commitment to respect, preserve and enforce the Second Amendment during a Dec. 10 meeting at the Municipal Building.
Martinsville was the latest of 57 other localities to approve similar resolutions that reaffirm their stance “to oppose unconstitutional and unlawful legislation and proposed restrictions that infringe upon the right of its citizens to keep and bear arms. Such localities have adopted the name of “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.”
The resolution passed with a 3-1 vote, with Council Member Danny Turner voting against the resolution and Council Member Jennifer Bowles abstaining.
Some council members noted residents concerns that impending unconstitutional legislation will be introduced by the newly-elected, Democratic-controlled General Assembly to curtail gun rights for citizens.
“Gun control isn’t about guns, it’s about control,” said Charles Cousins, a Martinsville residents’ at the meeting.”The first defense in protection of our property is ourselves. We have a right granted by God and protected by the Constitution to arm and protect ourselves.”
Council stopped short of saying it would withhold public funds to enforce any such legislation, as was included in resolutions passed by counties like Patrick and Henry.
“Put simply, local governments are to follow state laws,” City Attorney and Assistant City Manager Eric Monday said. “Unless there is a specific court hearing stating why a particular state law should or cannot be followed, it is the responsibility of localities to follow the laws outlined by the states.”
The resolution outlines this sentiment by stating that “…nothing in this resolution is intended to declare any intent or effectuate any act, present or prospective, by the Council or any city officer or employee in contravention of law…”
Unlike other resolutions that have been passed, Martinsville’s never officially declares that the city is a Second Amendment Sanctuary. Instead, after an amendment by Danny Turner, the city voted to affirm its support for the “sanctuary city movement” rather than take on the moniker of a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
The council did, however, express a commitment to oppose unconstitutional and unlawful legislation and proposed restrictions that infringe upon the rights of its citizens to keep and bear arms through any and all legal means.
“Now, I’m voting in favor of this measured resolution on philosophical grounds,” said Council Member James Woods, before officially casting his vote. “I’m not a ‘hash tag gun nut’ nor am I beholden to the National Rifle Association. I don’t even own a firearm anymore. It is incumbent upon us to hold state legislators to account when proposed legislation like Senate bills 18, 16 and 64 seek to limit a Virginian’s free exercise of inalienable rights, specifically life, liberty and property. Sic semper tyrannis.”
Facing possible legal challenges, proponents of passing the “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” largely see the move as emblematic.
“While it may be seen as symbolic, it does send a very clear message to all of the legislators in Virginia,” Delegate Chris Head, Republican of the 17th District said.
During a recent city council meeting, Roanoke City opted not to become part of the recent trend of local governments declaring themselves as “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.”
“As the mayor, I see no need, no benefit for official action by the city validating what the Constitution already guarantees,” Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea said during the Dec. 2 meeting.
In a meeting only a day after, Roanoke County passed a resolution unanimously to become a “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” breaking away from the city.
Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group, told CBS 6 in a statement last week that the “flood of second amendment sanctuary localities across the state, and the massive crowds at those government meetings, is sending a message to the General Assembly that Virginia does not need any more unconstitutional gun control.”
Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) on Dec. 2, sent a letter to Attorney General Mark Hearing asking for an opinion on the “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.”
“The legal precedent we would set by allowing communities to selectively ignore those laws at will is alarming and indicative of the same mindset that nearly one hundred and fifty years ago led this county to dissolve into a civil war,” Jones wrote.
While Herring has not given an official ruling yet, he did release a statement hinting that localities will comply with laws passed down by the state government.
“The resolutions that are being passed are being ginned up by the gun lobby to try to scare people. What we’re talking about here are laws that will make our communities and our streets safer. We’re talking about universal background checks, finally, maybe, Virginia will pass universal background checks to make sure that people who are dangerous, who are criminals and who aren’t permitted to buy guns, won’t be able to buy guns,” said Herring. “So, when Virginia passes these gun safety laws that they will be followed, they will be enforced.”
Among the policies proposed is legislation on universal background checks, closing a loophole allowing private citizens to sell guns without getting background checks. Also, on the list is a plan to place a ban on assault weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines, silencers and devices that increase a gun’s firing rate known as “bump stocks.”
Additional legislation up for consideration is reinstating a law repealed in 2012 that limited handgun purchases to one per month and proposing a new law requiring anyone whose firearm is lost or stolen to report it to police within 24 hours. Legislation proposing enacting a “red-flag law” where courts can seize guns from people that a judge deems a threat to themselves or others, are also on the table.