Brandi Long told Stafford County supervisors Tuesday night that she and others are devastated by the loss of life caused by gun violence.

But Long said proposed gun-control legislation Democratic lawmakers have introduced in next year’s General Assembly session would criminalize weapons and activities of lawful citizens without solving the problems that exist.

“It will only make many of us felons overnight, or leave us defenseless against those who already disregard the current laws,” Long said.

Long and more than 60 others spoke Tuesday night in support of a resolution making Stafford a Second Amendment sanctuary, which means county officials would not enforce measures perceived as violating people’s constitutional rights to keep and bear arms.

After the public finished speaking around 11:15 p.m., Stafford supervisors voted 7–0 in favor of the resolution, joining 93 other jurisdictions in the state that have adopted similar resolutions. Stafford is the latest locality in the Fredericksburg region to declare itself such a sanctuary, joining Spotsylvania, King George, Caroline, Orange and Culpeper counties.

Residents filled the board chamber and two overflow rooms at the Stafford Government Center for Tuesday night’s hearing, and the Stafford Sheriff’s Office estimated that hundreds more were left waiting outside.

Supervisor Gary Snellings began the meeting by saying that although the focus was on the Second Amendment, people should respect everyone’s First Amendment right to speak freely. Only a few speakers opposed the sanctuary proposition and they, like the supporters, were applauded for sharing their views.

The group of speakers in favor of the resolution included veterans, law enforcement officers, firearms instructors, hunters, competitive shooters, non-gun owners, retirees, single mothers and citizens who simply want to protect their families.

Michael Pellar of Stafford, who uses an AR-15-style rifle to hunt with his 12-year-old grandson, said he’s not opposed to rules that require background checks or weapon registration. He said agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or the Virginia State Police can “go to every firearm dealer in the state of Virginia now and pull those records.”

“I think a few of [the proposed laws] are not hateful, and we do need to make some changes,” said Pellar. “But there’s no reason to ban a particular weapon because it freaks you out. An assault weapon is anything I use to harm you: a fist, a hammer, whatever. A firearm is a tool. So I’m against the assault weapon ban, of any kind.”

Walter Cockran of Stafford said he thinks Gov. Ralph Northam “wants to do something good, but I think he’s going a little too far.”

“If you give up just a little bit, the next time they’ll want more, and the next time they’ll want even more, and that’s a problem,” Cockran said.

Crystal Vanuch, the incoming Rock Hill District supervisor, said the proposed bills are designed to “confiscate everyday weapons that thousands of Stafford residents commonly have in their homes.”

“For that, they want to call you a felon,” said Vanuch.

“My neighbors, my family, federal government employees, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, educators, and worst of all, law enforcement, will be so overwhelmingly negatively impacted by this hysteria our General Assembly is creating,” Vanuch continued. “They want to punish you and me and take away our right to protect ourselves and our families.”

After the resolution passed, Stafford County Sheriff David Decatur said he intends to support and uphold the Constitution while supporting local citizen’s right to bear arms.

“I’m pro-Second Amendment,” said Decatur. “I don’t want our citizens to be fearful of any of our deputies or any member of the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office coming to their homes and taking their firearms.”

The Second Amendment sanctuary movement began shortly after November’s election, in which Democrats won control of the Virginia General Assembly for the first time in decades. Several Democrats have introduced new gun laws to consider in January.

Senate Bill 18, introduced by Democratic Sen. Dick Saslaw of Northern Virginia, raises the age for purchasing a firearm to 21 and requires mandatory background checks for any transfer of firearms. It also restricts transporting firearms in the state.

Saslaw’s bill also provides that “any person who recklessly leaves a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any person under the age of 18 is guilty of a Class 6 felony and that it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for any person knowingly to authorize a child under the age 18 to use a firearm except when the person is under the supervision of an adult.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, a Democrat who represents Virginia’s 4th congressional district, which includes most of the area between Richmond and Hampton Roads, suggested Northam may have to call out the National Guard to enforce the stricter gun laws after localities across the state began declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries.

“I think that would be going way too far and he knows that would be going way too far,” said Joshua Fluharty of Stafford. “He would have a lot more of an issue on his hands if he did that.”

James Scott Baron:

540/374-5438

jbaron@freelancestar.com

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