As Virginia Democrats consider sweeping gun control measures, several rural counties in the Commonwealth are preparing unprecedented acts of defiance.
Nearly four dozen Virginia counties have passed resolutions declaring themselves sanctuaries for the 2nd Amendment. The counties have threatened to not enforce proposed gun laws if they pass the state legislature, and are similar to the hundreds of liberal cities and towns in the U.S. that have declared themselves sanctuaries for illegal immigrants, and have refused to cooperate with immigration enforcement. (RELATED: The Four Ways Washington Can Fix America’s Immigration Crisis)
“Prior to the last election, I warned my constituents of the 17th District that if the Democrats were to take the majority, they would introduce legislation directly violating the 2nd Amendment. My statements were labeled as ‘fear-mongering’ by the left, insisting they just wanted common sense gun restrictions,” Republican State Sen. Bryce Reeves told the Daily Caller.
Gun rights activists have expressed concern about the future of the right to bear arms in Virginia since Democrats won control of the state legislature last month. Privately, Virginia Republicans are fuming that conservatives and 2nd Amendment supporters weren’t operating with this much urgency a month ago. Republicans lost their narrow majority in the House of Delegates and state senate last month, which could lead to a hard-left turn in the state’s public policy.
— Erin Miller (@Emiller_reports) December 4, 2019
“We were telling people it was going to happen when we spoke to anybody who cared about Second Amendment rights,” a senior Republican official told the Daily Caller.
Indeed, gun control was not only on the agenda in November, but at the top of it. Democrats have been pining for restrictive gun control measures since a tragic shooting in Virginia Beach this summer claimed 13 lives. The next month Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam called a special legislative session, where several different gun control measures were defeated by the Republican majority. Since then, Democrats have vowed to prioritize gun restrictions and have been given millions of reasons to do so by Michael Bloomberg’s gun control organization. Nevertheless, the speed and intensity of Virginia Democrats efforts to test the limits of the Second Amendment appears to have served as a wake-up call for the state’s beleaguered conservatives. (RELATED: REPORT: Northam’s Wife Handed Cotton To Black Students, Asked Them To Imagine Being Slaves)
“The Democrats have filed some very strong gun control measures,” Republican State Sen. Ben Chafin told the Daily Caller. “My hope is that there will be enough moderation within the Democratic Party.”
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw filed two major gun control bills immediately after the election. Senate Bill (SB) 16 bill would dramatically expand the definition of an “assault firearm” under Virginia law, and prohibit the sale or transfer of any such weapon. The bill does not include or mention a program to grandfather in those types of firearms currently possessed by Virginia residents, opening up a serious question as to whether or not the legislation might be used as a trojan horse for gun confiscation. (RELATED: Students Force University Of Virginia To End 21 Gun Salute On Veterans Day)
Saslaw also filed SB 18, which would make it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use a firearm without adult supervision, and make it a felony to leave a loaded gun where an anyone under the age of 18 could have access to it. This bill would adversely affect hunters, especially parents who want to teach their children how to hunt. Current Virginia law allows children as young as 12 to hunt by themselves, provided they pass a state-sanctioned hunting safety course. If Virginia Democrats succeed in raising the age limit to 18, it would be the highest age limit in the country.
“That particular measure has nothing to do with gun control,” Chafin said. “That’s got entirely to do with doing away with people’s passion for hunting.”
“If our children are not allowed to become accustomed to firearms at a young age, they may not be interested in hunting or owning a firearm when they get older,” Chafin continued.
Then, there’s SB 64, a bill introduced by Democratic Virginia State Sen. Louise Lucas, which would criminalize certain types of firearm trainings and demonstrations. All of these proposed bills would be sure to face rigorous court challenges from conservative and Second Amendment advocacy groups, and at least one Virginia country has already promised to join a lawsuit against the state should any of these proposals come to fruition. Still, state Democrats will almost certainly pass some sort of gun control, possibly as soon as next month. (RELATED: Pro-Abortion Virginia Del. Kathy Tran Turns On Gov. Northam)
A Virginia Republican source told the Daily Caller that they believe there’s a 75% chance the legislature passes a gun control bill during the upcoming session. The legislature returns to work in January 2020, and Democrats will have a 55-45 majority in the house of delegates, and a 21-19 majority in the state senate. The slim senate majority gives Republicans some hope to stop the more extreme Democratic proposals, and the source pointed to three senate Democrats who represents rural areas that Republicans would have a chance to peel off.
Democratic Sens. John Edwards, Creigh Deeds, and Lynwood Lewis are the three names to watch in the coming months as the gun control battle heats up. Republicans will need to win two of them over, as Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax would be able to break a tie in the senate.
“I think that a number of the proposals are unconstitutional,” Chafin said. “I do not believe at all that a majority of Virginians will support the measures that have been filed.”
If any of the proposed gun control legislation ultimately becomes law, the aftermath of its passage could be among the most fiercest political fights in recent history. While Virginia has become a blue state over the past decade, it is still a state with many conservative and rural areas, as the recent sanctuary county push has made clear.
Of the 46 counties that have declared themselves sanctuaries for the 2nd Amendment, at least one has committed to fight potential gun control measures in court, while Culpeper County passed a resolution that would allow its sheriffs to deputize citizens to resist enforcement. Dozens of other municipalities are also considering resolutions declaring themselves sanctuary counties.
Democrats will likely make the argument that these counties are required to obey by state law, but may have trouble distinguishing between sanctuary cities for guns and sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants.
“The position they have taken is that they won’t enforce these restrictions,” a Republican source told the Caller about the sanctuary counties. “What’s the difference between that and not cooperating with ICE?”
Virginia Democrats may be ready for sweeping gun control, but the state as a whole may be less eager. The birthplace of several of America’s founding fathers will be the next battleground over the scope of the Second Amendment.