A large, raucous crowd converged at the Spotsylvania County building Tuesday evening, turning a regular Board of Supervisors meeting into a rally-like gathering replete with warnings that basic American rights are under attack.
After hearing several hours of comments, the board unanimously approved the motion to become a Second Amendment sanctuary.
The crowd was mostly white men, but it also covered the gamut, from parents concerned about protecting their families to military and law enforcement veterans, local business owners, state senators and delegates, as well as a local pastor.
Almost all of the nearly 60 speakers exhorted the board to pass the resolution supporting the Second Amendment sanctuary movement sweeping through Virginia.
Many worried that new laws proposed in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly could outlaw certain types of firearms or restrict their lawful use.
Speakers cited the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as well as the Bible, such historical U.S. figures as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, and even the heavy metal band Twisted Sister. They warned that Democrats, who some labeled “leftists,” “socialists,” “communists” and “fascists”—are attacking not just the right to bear arms but all basic rights that serve as the foundation of the country.
The large majority who spoke in favor of the resolution were cheered, with some receiving standing ovations. Chants and whoops interrupted many comments. Spotsylvania Sheriff Roger Harris drew a standing ovation after saying he wants politicians in Richmond to find solutions that will “help communities,” including those with mental health issues.
The crowd, inside and outside, then roared its approval after he said he “will never send one of my deputies into a home in Spotsylvania County to remove a citizen’s firearms from that home when they have done nothing wrong. I will never do that.
“We’re all in this together,” he said.
The few who spoke against the resolution or said it was the wrong approach were roundly heckled and welcomed to leave when their time to speak was up.
One man opposed to the resolution was escorted out by security after he grew so frustrated he moved toward the supervisors and tossed his notes at them. Kimberly Wyman, a county woman who wore a “Proud Democrat” shirt, said she owns guns and supports gun rights. But she added that she also is guaranteed the right to dissent. As the crowd started to heckle, the woman asked the board and crowd to consider victims and called the resolution “an exercise in futility.”
Cheers returned after two women, both of whom immigrated to the U.S., passionately spoke in favor of the Constitution and the sanctuary resolution.
One of those women, from Italy, said that country has very little gun rights for citizens.
“That is not freedom,” she said. “Do not let this happen here.”
Several state lawmakers attended the meeting, and mingled with the crowd outside.
Sen. Bryce Reeves, a Republican military veteran and retired police officer who owns a local insurance business, quoted Benjamin Franklin when he spoke to the supervisors. He also said he has gotten thousands of emails from people concerned about their rights. He claimed that Senate Bill 16 would violate Supreme Court rulings.
Others also cited that bill, which among other things would reclassify and prohibit certain assault weapons and magazines along with limiting how many rounds can be carried in shotguns in public.
Republican Del. Nick Freitas of Culpeper, who recently won a write-in campaign and will challenge Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger for her seat in Congress, also attended and told the supervisors the Democratic bills would make “law-abiding citizens criminals,” something that would be “an injustice” and be an affront to military veterans like himself.
Republican Del. John McGuire III, a former Navy SEAL, also attended the meeting.
“Once you lose a freedom, it’s never coming back,” he told the board.
Other speakers warned about other societies that surrendered or lost rights, recalling the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong.
Prior to the meeting, as he waited to speak, U.S. Marine and Spotsylvania resident Andrew Mintonsmith said he feels like the Second Amendment is under attack, adding that he has a shotgun that would be made illegal by the proposed restriction on how many rounds a gun’s magazine can hold.
New laws aren’t the answer, he said, explaining that he thinks changes would be “counterproductive to law-abiding citizens” when the focus should be on what leads people to commit mass shootings and other violent acts with guns.
A spokesperson for Gov. Ralph Northam issued a statement Monday saying he does not want to confiscate guns, but supports an assault weapons ban with a “grandfather clause” for existing gun owners “with the requirement they register their weapons before the end of a designated grace period,” the Richmond Times–Dispatch reported.
The RTD story also noted that Attorney General Mark Herring said in a radio interview that the sanctuary resolutions being adopted by numerous counties have no impact and are simply an example of the gun lobby stoking fear.
The Spotsylvania resolution states that the board opposes “any law that would unconstitutionally restrict the rights of the citizens of Spotsylvania County to bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment … .”
The staff report acknowledges that the board has no power to “nullify state or federal law” and that the resolution is symbolic.
Some speakers noted that the resolution might not have any teeth, but said supporting it is an important step in protecting basic rights of the country’s citizens.
Before the vote, Supervisor David Ross said the resolution backs a “core foundation” of the Constitution in that the “human heart is flawed and needs “checks and balances.”
“There is no hate in supporting the Second Amendment,” Ross said.