VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY)– The largest city in Virginia has now officially weighed in on the gun rights debate, declaring itself a “Second Amendment Constitutional City” ahead of the 2020 General Assembly session.
Following more than three hours of speakers, the resolution passed with a vote of 6-4 with council members Barbara Henley, Aaron Rouse, Louis Jones and Sabrina Wooten voting no. Council member Guy Tower was absent.
“This resolution is balanced in keeping with our Constitution and recent Supreme Court decision, and we ask the General Assembly respect citizens’ rights as they deliberate in Richmond over these very important and emotional issues,” Mayor Bobby Dyer said at the beginning of the meeting.
It comes after hundreds of people showed up at City Hall in December, demanding Virginia Beach take a position in the “Second Amendment sanctuary” movement, created in response to Democrats winning control of the Virginia General Assembly.
The resolution was brought in response to the large crowds who came to Virginia Beach Dec. 3, pushing a “Second Amendment sanctuary.” Many localities across Virginia are have adopted similar resolutions pledging not to use public resources to enforce any laws they see as unconstitutional.
The Second Amendment sanctuary movement started after Democrats flipped both the state Senate and House of Delegates to become the majority in November’s election. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has said his party’s leaders will push for gun control measures and more than a dozen bills concerning firearms have already been pre-filed.
The most controversial is Senate Bill 16, proposed by incoming Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw. It would expand the definition of “assault firearm” in the commonwealth, making it a felony to own pistols, rifles and shotguns considered an “assault weapon.”
Yet, what was approved in Virginia Beach had no mention of a “sanctuary” and no pledge to not use public funds to enforce any laws ultimately passed.
“I wish it had more teeth to it, but I’ll take it,” said Carl Kendrick, one of more than 70 speakers said.
City Hall was filled to capacity before the meeting even began Monday night. Hundreds watched from overflow rooms and outside gun rights advocates — wearing bright orange “Guns Save Lives” stickers — cheered with speakers they agreed with as they watched the meeting on a big screen.
“If you vote ‘no,’ you are choosing to [put] yourself in an adversarial position with people like me, law abiding citizens that love America,” said Karen Greenhall, a Virginia Beach resident.
However several speakers did speak out against the resolution.
“Tell them to take their issues to the General Assembly and the courts that have the ability to decide if something is constitutional or not,” said Lexi Hickman, a Virginia Beach resident. “Vote ‘no’ on this wast of taxpayer resources and time.”
Yet council members Sabrina Wooten and Aaron Rouse both said they believe it was too soon to vote on the issue. On May 31 a gunman killed 12 and injured 4 others Building 2 at the municipal center.
“Here we are less than a year … from the tragedy about a topic as divisive as this in the mist of a healing community, it worries me,” Rouse said ahead of the meeting.
Wooten and Rouse motioned to defer the issue for further discussion but the motion failed.
“We not moved by fear. We are Virginia Beach strong, not Virginia Beach scared,” Wooten said.
Wooten contends that her vote against the resolution had to do a lot with the process. She brought up several times that the resolution was not discussed among council members ahead of the drafting.
“This resolution does not represent the entire community,” Wooten said.
Back in June, when Wooten brought forward a resolution asking the state for the power to ban guns in public buildings, the mayor said “more meaningful conversations need to happen” before action was taken in order not to polarize people. The resolution was deferred then, and is expected to be taken up again by council Tuesday.
However Dyer contends it was important to send a message to Richmond ahead of Wednesday’s legislative session.
“We came up with what we thought was a document, we know it was going to make some people happy and some people not. We knew that going in. But we wanted to at least try to let the public know and engage that they were listened to and we have been listening to both sides,” Dyer said.
The city manager will send a copy of the resolution to the Virginia General Assembly and Northam.
Where localities stand on the Second Amendment:
Localities across Virginia are considering the idea of becoming Second Amendment sanctuaries, which are localities that have pledged not to use public resources to enforce any laws they see as unconstitutional. Some have passed resolutions simply in support of citizens’ Second Amendment rights, while others have said discussions on gun laws belong in Richmond.
Here’s the rundown on where area localities stand:
- Accomack County: The Board of Supervisors did not make the county a “sanctuary,” but approved a resolution affirming its commitment to citizens’ rights under the Second Amendment Dec. 18.
- Chesapeake: City Council did not make the city a “sanctuary,” but approved a resolution affirming its commitment to citizens’ rights under the Second Amendment Dec. 10.
- Exmore: Exmore officials have passed a resolution to become a Second Amendment sanctuary city.
- Gloucester County: The Board of Supervisors voted to become a Second Amendment sanctuary.
- Hampton: City Council has not voted on any Second Amendment-related resolution, but hundreds voiced their support at the council meeting Dec. 11. The NAACP also attended and came out against the idea. Mayor said the issue is “premature.”
- James City County: The Board of Supervisors did not make the county a “sanctuary,” but approved a resolution affirming its commitment to citizens’ rights under the Second Amendment Dec. 10.
- Isle of Wight: The Board of Supervisors did not make the county a “sanctuary,” but approved a resolution to affirm its commitments to citizens’ rights under the Second Amendment.
- Mathews County: The Board of Supervisors voted Dec. 17 to become a Second Amendment sanctuary.
- Newport News: City Council has not voted on any Second Amendment-related resolution, but a large crowd attended a Dec. 10 meeting to voice support for gun rights.
- Norfolk: City Council has not voted on any Second Amendment-related resolution, but a large crowd of residents voiced their support Dec. 10.
- Northampton County: The Board of Supervisors passed a resolution expressing its support for the rights of citizens to bear arms under the Second Amendment Dec. 10, but the resolution did not declare it a “sanctuary.”
- Poquoson: Poquoson City Council voted to become a “Constitutional City” and uphold citizens’ rights under the Second Amendment Dec. 9.
- Portsmouth: City Council voted 4-3 in favor of passing a resolution declaring Portsmouth a “Second Amendment Constitutional City” Jan. 14.
- Southampton County: Southampton officials have passed a resolution to become a Second Amendment sanctuary city.
- Suffolk: City Council voted on December 16, 2019 in support of a resolution reaffirming Suffolk’s commitment to the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia. On Jan. 15, City Council unanimously voted to amend the resolution to add a paragraph expressing the city’s “deep and abiding commitment to protecting all Constitutional rights” of residents, as well as its opposition to any law, regulation or other act that would unconstitutionally infringe on the rights of citizens, even beyond the Second Amendment. It also strikes two lines.
- Surry County: County officials did not make the county a “sanctuary,” but approved a resolution affirming its commitment to citizens’ rights under the Second Amendment Dec. 5.
- Virginia Beach: City Council voted Jan. 6 to become a “Second Amendment Constitutional City.”
- York County: The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Dec. 17 to become a “Constitutional City” and uphold citizens’ rights under the Second Amendment.