Local advocates will host a pro-gun rally this Saturday in the town of Culpeper’s Yowell Meadow Park, the same area where local Minutemen mustered in 1770 to fight the British.
The Culpeper Republican Party and a newly formed grassroots group, Culpeper County 2A, are co-hosting this weekend’s event happening noon to 2 p.m. on Jan. 11. The gathering is meant to emphasize local opposition to what is expected to be a robust gun control agenda when the Democratic-controlled Virginia General Assembly convenes this week for the 2020 session.
“This rally is intended to raise awareness of the threats emanating from the governor’s mansion and many legislators in Richmond to our right to keep and bear arms,” Culpeper GOP Chairman Marshall Keene said in a statement. “The Culpeper Republican Party is committed to protecting and defending all of our constitutional rights …. Our rights are non-negotiable.”
Local attorney Patrick Heelen founded Culpeper County 2A, a reference to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
He said in a phone interview Monday that he petitioned the Culpeper Board of Supervisors in November to make the county a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” The board adopted such a resolution in December, joining dozens other localities across Virginia in opposing new gun control rules.
“One of the reasons I’m so passionate about this issue is my family was affected by crime. I know what that looks like and I know why I need arms to protect myself and my family,” Heelen said.
Beyond that, he added, “We have constitutional guaranteed rights not subject to infringement. The Constitution is unambiguous and clear – the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Among legislative possibilities this year are “red- flag” laws that would require a person deemed dangerous to hand over their guns, a ban on some assault rifles, mandatory background checks and restrictions such as limiting the number of rounds a magazine can have and devices that allow fast firing.
“They all concern me,” Heelen said, adding “so-called assault weapons are commonly used for defensive purposes. “The best-case scenario is that Richmond listens to us and the other counties and upholds the constitution and decides to respect our rights.”
It’s an American issue, he said.
“These rights of ours are inherent, inalienable, memorialized, written down and guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution,” Heelen said. “We want to get this message out that yes, this is about guns, I have a right to be armed and I don’t intend to give that up.”
A Culpeper County 2A private Facebook page, created Nov. 22, 2019, had more than 2,000 members as of Monday. Its cover photo depicts a painting of the Culpeper Minutemen, who picked up arms in old Clayton’s field, current Yowell Meadow Park, to fight for freedom during the American Revolution.
Residents filled the Culpeper County boardroom in December at a morning meeting to show their support for the Second Amendment resolution. At the night meeting on the same date when the resolution was approved, local public school educator Uzziah Harris shared a differing opinion.
“The context of the Second Amendment is clear in that it allowed for the keeping and bearing of arms in order to maintain a militia in times of emergency. It never stated or specified as to how many or what type of firearm and it never said anything about lack of restriction regardless of mental or emotional capacity. There currently isn’t a national emergency nor does the military need supplements, as it is OK and doesn’t have a manpower problem,” he told elected officials.
Harris said the resolution the board approved sounds a lot like talking points from the state’s top pro-gun group, Virginia Citizen Defense League. Its president, Philip Van Cleave, will be among the special speakers at Saturday’s rally in Culpeper.
Harris continued, “Sensible gun control does not in any way take people’s rights away, but rather simply regulates for safety the safety of the common good. Ask the people at Parkland, Florida, who had a school resource officer who was in fact armed that day and was not able to prevent loss of life,” he said of the 2018 school shooting that killed 17.
“We regulate cigarettes, alcohol, motor vehicle operation, internet and in some states we regulate marijuana, so what is wrong with regulation of firearms? Nothing is wrong with it. We simply have to update the laws to combat the times in which we live,” Harris said.
Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins has come out strongly in support of Second Amendment rights, vowing to deputize thousands of local citizens to push back on proposed gun control.
“I hope that’s not something that will have to come to pass, but if the legislature does pass the bills that they intend, that’s likely to happen in Culpeper,” he said in an interview last month on Fox News. Jenkins said gun rights were “one issue I will not back down on” and that the deputized residents would first undergo background checks and training before receiving badges.
The local sheriff is also scheduled to speak at Saturday’s rally in Yowell Meadow. Other advertised speakers will include Chris Anders with Virginia Constitutional Conservatives, John Miska with The Rutherford Institute and congressional candidates Tina Ramirez and Andrew Knaggs.
Culpeper Town Councilmen Keith Brown and Jon Russell are also slated to speak about their efforts to make the town a Second Amendment Constitutional Town, a proposal slated to be heard at the Jan. 14 council meeting.