Eric Young ...

TAZEWELL, Va. — Tazewell County has no plans to actually form a citizens militia, but it is offering the training needed to make sure a core of people would be ready if ever needed.

County Administrator Eric Young said his office has received many inquiries about a possible militia.

“We are not forming a militia,” he said. “Our intent is to provide all of our residents the opportunity to own weapons, learn basic survival skills, and learn basic military discipline, if they are interested in doing so. In the unlikely event we were to need a militia, we would have a population which would include people with weapons and those skills.”

The militia issue surfaced recently when Tazewell, as well most counties and many cities and towns in the state, passed resolutions to be declared Second Amendment sanctuaries in response to the possibility of more gun control laws in the next Democrat-controlled session of the General Assembly.

Part of those resolutions reminded citizens of the constitutional right to form militias.

“On December 3, 2019, our board of supervisors chose to exercise some of its rights under the Virginia Constitution to order or regulate militia,” Young said. “By insuring that our residents have the opportunity (1) to possess certain types of firearms, (2) to educate themselves on their use, (3) to learn common military practices, and (4) to learn basic survival skills, we hope to preserve a group of residents who could form a militia, were such a body needed. Without these most basic elements our county would not have a group of persons from whom a militia could be drawn. At the moment, however, the board has not called any such militia to arms and prays that such moment never occurs.”

Young said that if such a moment ever comes, the militia would be “called to arms at that unfortunate time, likely in great haste.”

“Keep in mind, militia is most probably used when the government has failed to repel a foreign invasion or the government needs men and women at arms to protect some critical infrastructure or harass the invading enemy,” he said. “Militia typically are not organized and trained as are armies. For example, Andrew Jackson stood on a New Orleans street corner in 1814 and called for men to rally with him against the British.  Hopefully none of us will see such a day.”

The most recent count showed that 86 of Virginia’s 95 counties as well as many cities and towns have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.

The movement started after the November election when Democrats won a majority in both the House and Senate. Gov. Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, has said he wants more gun control laws.

Northam 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 (with all purchased before such legislation would pass grandfathered in) and the reinstatement of the one handgun a month purchase law.

Most resolutions around the state also include language regarding the right to form militias as well as provisions not to spend local dollars in enforcing any laws considered unconstitutional.

Tazewell County Eastern District Supervisor Charlie Stacy told the Bluefield, Va. Town Council when they passed a resolution last month that the town and county are on the same page.

The county passed its Second Amendment sanctuary, also laying out the framework for action that would be taken if any gun law that may be unconstitutional is passed in the state.

That action includes going to court to force a legal decision on any such law’s constitutionality.

“The best thing we are doing is resisting,” he said, which sends a message to Richmond.

If unwanted gun laws are passed, he said, they will be “immediately challenged” in court and must survive the “constitutional challenges they will face” before counties and towns would be in a position to be required to enforce them.

“The outcry will be overwhelming,” he said of any of those laws that may be passed by the General Assembly. “Let’s hope our Governor will recognize that these proposed legislations are overreaching.”

Stacy said Virginia is one of the “original rebel states” and he and many others are ready to defend citizens’ rights.

Stacy said it’s not a matter of being “radical” because “we are being historical,” referring to the early days of the nation when communities had the right to form a militia to “protect themselves at the local level.”

The message is being sent clearly to Richmond, he said.

“I hope they (any unwanted gun laws) never come out of the General Assembly, but we are ready if it does,” he said. “We are preparing … for the worst but hoping for the best.”

Stacy and others have previously also emphasized the point the resolutions do not impact gun laws already on the books and are constitutional. Those laws will continue to be enforced.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com.

 

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