Bland County sanctuary county vote

Bland County officials and hundreds of residents gathered outside the courthouse Tuesday evening to show their support after the board of supervisors unanimously approved a resolution declaring the county a Second Amendment sanctuary, which expresses their opposition to any unconstitutional infringement on residents’ Second Amendment rights.

BLAND, Va. — About 500 residents jammed the main courtroom at the Bland County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday evening to express their support of a resolution declaring the county a Second Amendment sanctuary.

The board voted unanimously to pass the resolution, said county Administrator Eric Workman.

“The main courtroom was full beyond capacity with additional people filling the hallways and gathering outside the courthouse,” Workman said. “Over the past few weeks, the supervisors have received multiple requests from citizens concerned over recent legislation that was introduced for the upcoming session of the Virginia General Assembly. At the meeting on Tuesday evening, the board of supervisors were presented with a petition with almost 500 names supporting the declaration and two opposed.”

Bland County joined several other counties in western Virginia, including Giles County, that have passed the Second Amendment sanctuary resolution.

Tazewell County is set to pass the resolution on Dec. 3 and the Town of Bluefield, Va., is also considering it, hearing a draft of a resolution at its meeting Tuesday evening.

The trend started after the general election in Virginia which saw Democrats gain control of both the House and Senate. Gov. Ralph Northam has said gun control will be a priority during the 2020 session of the General Assembly.

Workman said the municipalities are standing together on the issue.

“One of the basic things (about the resolutions) is solidarity in support of citizens and their rights,” he said, adding that both the commonwealth’s attorney and the sheriff in Bland County also support the resolution and were in attendance when supervisors made it official Tuesday evening.

The resolution said, in part, that the county expresses “opposition to any law that would unconstitutionally restrict the rights under the Second Amendment of the citizens of Bland County to bear arms…and to oppose, within the limits of the Constitution of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia, any efforts to unconstitutionally restrict such rights, and to use such legal means at its disposal to protect the rights of the citizens to keep and bear arms, including through legal action, the power of appropriation of public funds, and the right to petition for redress of grievances.”

Bluefield may become the first town in Virginia to have the designation.

Council members heard the details Tuesday night from town Attorney Matt Friedman.

The resolution is similar to the one approved in Bland County as well as the one that will be voted on in Tazewell County.

Friedman also emphasized that the town will uphold the “constitutional rights” related to the Second Amendment, but oppose any “unconstitutional” infringement on those rights.

Tazewell County Eastern District Supervisor also spoke at Bluefield’s town council meeting, saying residents may be misunderstanding the intent of the word “sanctuary.”

“They are under the impression that we resist any anti-gun legislation and may not enforce current gun regulations,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. We want to make sure as leaders we tailor language that is clear to our people.”

Stacy said the key to any state law on gun control that may be passed is whether it is constitutional.

The resolutions make it clear any law must follow the Constitution and if there is any issue on that, it will end up in the court system.

If a law is a valid constitutional position, it must be followed, he added, but can and would be challenged in court if it may be unconstitutional.

Giles County last week became the first in this area to pass a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution, declaring that the county is opposed to any restrictions on gun rights.

Board of Supervisors Chair Jeffrey Morris said he resolution also says county funds cannot be used in any way to restrict gun rights, as in enforcing any gun control laws passed by the state and any associated expenses made the responsibility of the counties.

“We have to look down the road,” Morris said, referring to anticipating any problems the county may encounter. “I want to ensure we are not losing tax money out of our county. We don’t want to spend our tax dollars on gun control.”

Tazewell County Administrator Eric Young said last week all supervisors have been polled and all support the resolution, which is only official after they vote on Tuesday.

“It is the first duty of any government to protect the rights of its citizens,” Young said. “Right now, many of our citizens feel their rights are being threatened by potential legislation from Richmond. Rather than simply pass protest resolutions as so many other localities have, we have chosen to act. More importantly, we intend to act within the authority our board has under the Virginia Constitution. Under those laws our board is empowered to either fund or choose not to fund certain activities. Here, we have chosen to fund activities the board feels preserve our rights and not fund activities they feel threaten them.”

Counties in Virginia, mostly rural, that have already passed those declarations include Carroll, Pittsylvania, Patrick, Campbell, Charlotte and Appomattox, with Franklin and Amherst counties also considering the move.

Gov. Ralph Northam has said dealing with gun violence is a top priority for his administration and he wants to pursue “common sense” gun controls including background checks on all gun sales and trades, a ban on selling assault weapons and the reinstatement of the one handgun a month purchase law.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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