WHAT if your political party won an election that gave it complete control of the state government for the first time in decades, but some local officials decided that they aren’t going to enforce the new laws you pass if they don’t agree with them?
That’s not a hypothetical situation. That’s exactly what’s happening in counties across Virginia as more than a dozen local boards of supervisors have either passed, or are considering, resolutions declaring them Second Amendment sanctuaries in anticipation of sweeping gun control legislation expected to be passed next year by the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly.
Appomattox, Botetourt, Campbell, Carroll, Charlotte and Pittsylvania counties have already passed such resolutions. Amelia, Amherst, Augusta, Bedford, Franklin, Isle of Wight, Louisa, Patrick and Tazewell are all reportedly considering adopting Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions as well.
King George’s Board of Supervisors is scheduled to take up the matter Tuesday, and Stafford and Spotsylvania supervisors are also expected to consider resolutions soon.
“Whereas the board is concerned that introduced legislation for the 2020 Virginia General Assembly, if passed, could infringe upon rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 13 of the Virginia Constitution,” the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last Tuesday for a resolution to “reject any provision, law or regulation that may infringe, have the tendency to infringe, or place any additional burdens on the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms.”
The movement is not limited to rural areas of Virginia. Alaska, Idaho, Kansas and Wyoming have already declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuary states, as have local jurisdictions in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington State as a response to “sanctuary cities” that bar the use of local funds or law enforcement to help federal agencies enforce immigration laws.
This is not how the system is supposed to work. Voters elect members of the General Assembly to pass laws, the sitting governor signs them, and state and local officials enforce them. If people don’t like the laws, they can elect new representatives to change or repeal them.
That’s what happened on Nov. 5. A majority of the Virginians who bothered to go to the polls (less than half of all registered voters) voted for Democrats who promised to impose much stricter gun control laws if they were elected to office. But many rural counties are already planning to ignore any new gun laws they might pass.
Democrats would be justifiably outraged by this preemptive resistance, except for the fact that they have a sanctuary problem themselves. Gov. Ralph Northam twice vetoed a bill passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that would have banned sanctuary cities or counties in the commonwealth because, he explained, it would send “a chilling message” to illegal immigrants.
So Democrats in Richmond will be in the very awkward position of having to condemn rural counties’ stated intentions to ignore any gun laws they might pass—after employing the same tactic themselves with arguably even less legal justification. Unlike immigration and marijuana laws, the Second Amendment is part of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. What goes around comes around. Except that such law-ignoring balkanization does not bode well for the future of the commonwealth.
This editorial was updated to remove an incorrect reference to marijuana laws.