Economist Walter Williams offered a sobering perspective on what might be in store for Virginia gun owners in the 2020 session of the state legislature. After riding a successful 2019 election cycle which saw Democrats take both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly, Governor Ralph Northam is hoping to capitalize on this new power by passing broad-based gun control legislation.
Williams refers to a bill, Senate Bill 16, which would ban “assault” weapons and certain firearm magazines. He nails it when he argues that “Those laws will have zero impact on Virginia’s criminals and a heavy impact on Virginia’s law-abiding citizens who own, or intend to own, semi-automatic weapons for hunting or their protection.”
Let’s face it, most people can’t rely on the police, let alone afford private security like many of the politically privileged or the wealthy. Instead, they rely on their Second Amendment right generally afforded to them to defend themselves and their loved ones. Virginians have responded creatively to the potential threat of gun control by teaming up with county sheriffs to create Second Amendment sanctuary counties.
These counties are part of a larger nullification movement taking place nationwide which is standing up to both federal and state-level gun control. Eighty-six counties, which make up 90 percent of total counties in the Virginia commonwealth, have enacted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
However, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring asserts that these resolutions can’t upend state laws. “It is my opinion that these resolutions have no legal effect,” Herring declared in a letter released in late December. “It is my further opinion that localities and local constitutional officers cannot nullify state laws and must comply with gun violence prevention measures that the General Assembly may enact.”
However, county and local officials are already pushing back. Page County Sheriff Chad Cubbage affirmed: “Be it known that the Page Sheriff hereby declares Page County, Virginia, as a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary,’ and that the Page County Sheriff hereby declares its intent to oppose any infringement on the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.”
Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins also vowed to defend gun rights in Virginia from state-level encroachments. In that county, the board unanimously declared it a Second Amendment constitutional county.
Northam claims that he will ban semi-automatic rifles but will still let gun owners keep their current AR-15s and similar firearms provided that they are registered. Williams is correct in noting that Virginians should not “fall for the registration trick.” As many pro-Second Amendment activists have pointed out for years, registration is the first step before outright gun confiscation.
Although there is debate on whether or not these nullification resolutions are effective, the local action they are inspiring should be celebrated. Frankly, the federal government has proven to be unresponsive to grassroots pressure and is more than comfortable with maintaining the status quo. Several state governments have been completely aloof as well, so gun rights activists have been compelled to get creative.
Unconventional political times call for unconventional political methods.