PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — As more and more governments in Virginia declare themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” the more awkward the situation will potentially get.
The “sanctuary” movement has spread in Virginia since the Nov. 5 election, when Democrats gained majority control of both the State Senate and House of Delegates. Democratic Governor 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.
As a result, 23 counties have passed resolutions stating that they will not use their public resources to enforce any unconstitutional federal or state gun laws.
“It’s not a new thing that Virginia’s doing. It’s kind of just fitting into the trend,” said Dr. Ben Melusky, an assistant professor of political science with Old Dominion University. “Ultimately the state has control of the localities and can step in pretty heavy handed if the locality refuses to implement the law.”
However he said the move is putting state Democrats in an awkward situation, as for so long the “shoe was on the other foot.”
“You had Northam, who vetoed a bill banning sanctuary cities,” Melusky said.
Melusky also pointed out Democrats have also not outwardly condemned Commonwealth’s Attorneys who are dropping small marijuana possession charges.
“You have the same people saying for the longest time that ‘we are effectively going to do this’ as it relates to other policy areas, now telling the other side ‘you can’t do these things’ related to the Second Amendment,” Melusky said. “It’s kind of awkward.”
Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) on Monday sent a letter to Attorney General Mark Hearing asking for an opinion on the “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.”
“The legal precedent we would set by allowing communities to selectively ignore those laws at will is alarming and indicative of the same mindset that nearly one hundred and fifty years ago led this county to dissolve into a civil war,” Jones wrote.
However at this point, those bringing forward the resolutions say it is as much about a message then anything else.
“This is the localities making a show of force to the legislators in Richmond that the gun laws they are proposing are not what we want,” said Ashley Chriscoe, Chair of the Gloucester County Board of Supervisors.
On Tuesday, Gloucester could join Southampton County as the second county in the Hampton Roads region to pass the resolution. The town of Exmore on the Eastern Shore just passed a resolution on Monday night.
The move has the support of Sheriff Darrell Warren.
“If new laws are passed as presented, our sheriff is not going to go door to door to ask people for the guns that they have registered,” Chriscoe said.