At a Fauquier County supervisors meeting Dec. 12, speaker after speaker urged their elected officials to pass a resolution with tough language against any attempt by a Democratic Party-controlled Virginia General Assembly to infringe on gun owner rights.
At the end of a 4 ½ hour-long public comment period that drew 71 speakers (69 in favor of a strongly worded resolution and two against), Board Chairman Chris Butler, R-Lee, said he wanted more time to consider what was said and to consult with legal staff. The meeting will be continued on Dec. 23 when a vote by the board is expected.
Butler said the board could end up voting on a resolution with the same language, but in the end, he wanted “to make sure we’re sending a strong message.”
Most of the speakers said the language being considered doesn’t meet that threshold. They expressed alarm that the state legislature in a session starting Jan. 8 could enact laws that infringe on their rights in an attempt to stem gun violence.
They pointed to resolutions passed by other counties and jurisdictions in Virginia that declared “sanctuary” or “constitutional” status in support of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
A rewritten resolution that Fauquier supervisors are considering states that the board “strongly opposes the passage of any law that restricts or prohibits” legal and constitutional gun ownership without using the word “sanctuary.”
The words “strongly opposes” replaced “is concerned about” wording in an earlier version of the resolution.
The rewritten resolution notes that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution speaks of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
The resolution also expresses the supervisors’ “strong opposition” to any legislation that restores gun rights to persons convicted of violent felonies.
It notes that Fauquier has a long history and tradition of sport hunting and other recreational use of firearms that provide tourism revenue.
The resolution also calls on the legislature to:
- Provide more funds for firearms education and safety education.
- Waive sales tax on gun safes and gun safety locks to promote their use.
- Increase funding for school resource and school security officers.
- Strengthen penalties for adults that allow unsafe access to firearms by children.
- Increase funding for mental health screening and services.
Supervisor Chris Granger, R-Center, said “no one is trying to dodge” the issue by delaying a vote. “I agree with you all. We shouldn’t have to be here at all” to consider a resolution in support of Second Amendment rights.
But passing a resolution is one thing, and influencing the votes in the General Assembly is another, Granger said.
“That’s where it ends if we don’t actively engage” legislators, Granger said. With the shifting of the balance of power, six Democrats in the House and two in the Senate need to be swayed, he noted.
Fauquier is represented by a Republican senator in the state Senate and three delegates in the House, two of whom are Republicans; the other, Elizabeth Guzman, is a Democrat representing parts of Fauquier and Prince William counties.
“She needs to hear from all of you,” Granger said.
Speakers want to protect 2nd Amendment
The crowd waiting to get inside the Warren Green Building was forming by 5 p.m. for a meeting that didn’t begin until 6:30 p.m. Many in the audience wore “Guns Save Lives” stickers that were being passed out. Sheriff’s deputies managed crowd control and didn’t allow admittance to the building until 6 p.m.
Sgt. James Hartman, spokesperson for the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office, placed the public turnout for the meeting at 2,000 people, most of whom remained outside. Those who couldn't find a seat in the meeting room watched from a monitor in an upstairs meeting room from which pounding could be heard when they agreed with something said by one of the speakers. Part of the crowd was also gathered inside Warrenton town hall across the street.
Speakers were told to keep their comments to two minutes, but many went over that and were allowed to do so without interruption.
The audience in the main meeting room applauded the supervisors’ decision to delay a vote rather than approve something that many found lacking.
Mike Wintermyer of Remington said the board “needs to send Richmond notice that Fauquier is a staunch Second Amendment county.”
Donn Sachs of Bealeton said he’s an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam. He said he has a concealed carry permit. “I’m not going to be in a position of being defenseless,” Sachs said.
Many speakers said they feared they would suddenly become felons under legislation approved by the new Democratic majority and advocated by a Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
“The problem is not the gun. The problem is the people” using the gun, Sachs said. It was a view expressed by other speakers as well.
Two speakers said they were born in foreign countries where confiscation of guns occurred.
A Second Amendment sanctuary movement has swept through Virginia in the weeks since the Democratic Party won control of both chambers of the General Assembly in November elections.
The movement, also seen in other states, has been sparked by concerns that legislators will approve more stringent requirements to purchase firearms.
In a 6-2 vote early Wednesday morning, Prince William County supervisors approved a “constitutional county” resolution that removed earlier language barring local funds from being used to enforce federal and state gun laws.
Culpeper County supervisor on Dec. 3 unanimously approved a “constitutional county” resolution. Rappahannock County by a 3-1-1 vote on Dec. 2 declared itself a sanctuary county.
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