Jeff Bueche, chairman of the King George Board of Supervisors, has always been a hunter.
He uses a shotgun and muzzleloader in the woods and enjoys target shooting with an AR-15, a lightweight semi-automatic rifle. He and his wife have pistols for protecting their home and horse farm.
Bueche, who recently retired after 20 years in the Coast Guard, has been concerned for some time about legislation that could impact his ability to hunt and shoot as he’s always done.
That’s why he’s bringing to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday a resolution that would make King George a “Second Amendment sanctuary” where officials would refuse to enforce any unconstitutional gun laws.
If passed, King George will become the first county in the Fredericksburg region to do so, although every locality from Culpeper County east to Westmoreland County is considering such a resolution, according to the Virginia Citizens Defense League website.
Bueche announced his plan on Nov. 19 so other board members could gather input from residents. Supervisor Ruby Brabo said she talked with a Colorado official after his county passed a similar resolution in May 2018, and the proposal generated a flurry of feedback.
“You will create a circus and a divisiveness in this community,” she said. “Just as you are passionate about this, there are just as many people who are passionate about what they believe is appropriate gun control.”
Bueche thanked her for her insight and said later to The Free Lance–Star that no law could “legislate out evil” and prevent people “intent on creating havoc” from doing so.
“It’s about individual accountability,” Bueche said. “A gun is an object. If someone is intent on committing harm, and if they don’t have a gun at their disposal, they’ll use a knife, they’ll use an explosive device, they’ll use a hammer.”
‘SEND A MESSAGE’
From Lee County in the southwestern tip of Virginia to communities outside Richmond and Roanoke and into central Piedmont, local government officials in 20 localities have passed the sanctuary resolution in the three weeks since the Nov. 5 election, according to the Virginia Citizens Defense League website.
“A whole lot more are on the way,” declares the site, which lists more than 50 other counties from Accomack to York that are considering the resolution.
Concerns from gun owners spiked when Democrats—many from more urban areas of the state—won control of the House of Delegates and the state Senate. The General Assembly doesn’t convene until Jan. 8, but there are already rumblings about a dozen bills that range from more extensive background checks for those interested in purchasing a firearm to ones that impact the transportation of assault rifles from one place to another.
Bueche said such a law could prohibit him from taking his AR-15 to a shooting range. Other legislation might make it illegal for parents to shoot assault rifles with “your son that might be only 15 years old,” he added.
Most view the resolutions as symbolic, but Stafford County Sheriff David Decatur believes they do “send a message to Richmond and lawmakers that responsible gun owners should be able to own firearms without having their Second Amendment rights infringed upon.”
‘KNEW IT WAS COMING’
The Stafford Board of Supervisors probably will discuss the sanctuary resolution on Dec. 17 and vote on in it January, said Chairman Gary Snellings. He’s waiting to hear from the public and fellow board members before he makes a decision.
However, he wants people to understand that, even if it passed, “state law prevails,” Snelling said. “One of my concerns is local people feel they’re immune to state laws, and that’s not the case.”
The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors will consider the matter Dec. 10. Supervisor Kevin Marshall, an avid hunter, proposed adding the resolution to the county’s legislative agenda so Spotsylvania could stress its desire to not restrict a person’s right to bear arms.
“I was trying to get ahead of this,” Marshall said. “I knew it was coming.”
Chris Giles, who takes over as King George sheriff on Jan. 1, also saw the sanctuary resolution on the horizon. He said he wouldn’t oppose its passage in King George, but he couldn’t comment on specific laws until they’re passed, adding, “I just don’t see that happening in the General Assembly.”
If the legislature did approve any action that seemed unconstitutional, the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association “would fight it, and I’d be right in there with them,” Giles said.
‘KEEP CALM HEADS’
Boards of supervisors aren’t required to hold public hearings on the sanctuary resolution. Residents interested in sharing input can contact their representative or address the matter during the public-comment portion of board meetings.
Other such sessions have drawn crowds. More than 800 people packed the boardrooms in Montgomery and Pulaski counties, west of Roanoke, recently to demand that their localities be added to the list of those seeking Second Amendment sanctuary status. No action was taken.
Local officials expect similar turnouts.
“I’m just hoping that people can keep calm heads, and we can have a nice, open discussion,” Bueche said.
Staff reporters James Scott Baron and Scott Shenk contributed to this story.