Citizens of Virginia are mobilizing around the commonwealth to defend their Second Amendment rights after November’s elections ushered in a new era of Democrat control over the state.
When the new General Assembly session begins in January, Democrats will have trifecta control of the governorship, state Senate, and state House for the first time since 1994. Members from rural areas will be shut out of leadership roles, as the new top leaders in the General Assembly will only be from urban or suburban districts in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond. They are planning to introduce bills to ban and possibly confiscate “assault rifles” and “high-capacity” magazines — though neither term is clearly defined yet — and enact “red flag” laws, among other proposals.
Local governments across the state are acting now in an effort protect their rights to keep and bear arms.
Over 80 county boards and city and town councils have enacted so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary” policies that pledge the county or city will not comply with or provide funds to enforce any state or federal laws that infringe on their citizens’ gun rights. County boards and city councils have seen record turnout at hearings on the measures from advocates in support of the measure, with many meeting rooms filled over capacity. Only a handful of counties or cities which discussed a measure rejected or tabled it. Over a dozen more localities are scheduled to consider similar measures before the end of the year and could bring the total number which have enacted such policies to 100.
Prince William County, the second-largest jurisdiction in the state and located in the outer D.C. suburbs, is the largest county to adopt a sanctuary measure. Most of the localities are in the central Piedmont region and the Appalachian southwest. Many of them see it as a way to push back against the increasing dominance of Northern Virginia over the rest of the state, which is overwhelmingly conservative.
The measures are modeled after sanctuary city policies for illegal immigrants championed by Democrats around the country. Supporters of the Second Amendment sanctuary policies say they are different because they are seeking to defend the Second Amendment against unconstitutional overreach, in contrast to illegal immigration policies which flout existing constitutional law.
The measures are largely symbolic lines in the sand but could become more serious if new laws are enacted and local counties, cities and sheriffs decline to enforce them. One sheriff, Scott Jenkins of Culpeper County in the Northern Virginia exurbs, went so far as to say he would deputize thousands of residents through normal vetting processes to protect their right to keep and bear arms.
Virginia is the latest state where local governments are standing up for the Second Amendment. A majority of counties in Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, and Washington have passed sanctuary measures to push back against Democrat-controlled state government. Localities in fourteen more states have enacted sanctuary policies, and four more states have enacted similar statewide measures.