Council to hear from Second Amendment sanctuary supporters
Published 9:36 pm Tuesday, December 3, 2019
The Second Amendment sanctuary movement is coming to Suffolk seeking a resolution from City Council affirming the gun rights of residents.
While other localities in Virginia have passed resolutions declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuary cities, Suffolk, to this point, has not, and the issue is not on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting.
It appears, however, that citizens will make sure it’s discussed in one way or another.
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One person — Tony Myers — spoke in favor of a resolution at the Nov. 20 meeting, and as of 2 p.m. Tuesday, 18 others had signed up to speak on the issue during the non-agenda public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting. People can sign up to speak up until the regular council meeting begins at 7 p.m.
Myers asked that “Suffolk not use its municipal resources to enforce unconstitutional gun laws which are forthcoming from Richmond, such as red flag laws, magazine capacity limits and assault weapon bans.”
Local officials have been getting plenty of feedback on the issue, both for and against a resolution.
“We’ve gotten a lot of emails through the city, sending us a lot of emails, and I’ve read all the emails,” said Councilman Donald Goldberg. “I’ve had a few people stop me … and talk to me for and against, on both sides of that.”
He said he would listen to what everyone has to say and then determine where to go from there.
Republican Delegate Emily Brewer said she has received about 1,000 emails on the issue across the 64th District she represents, noting that they were much more personal than the communication she normally receives on issues.
The issue has gained momentum across Virginia, with 31 localities, as of midday Dec. 3, that have affirmed their support for a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution, according to the Virginia Citizens Defense League, with another 16 localities set to either discuss or vote on a resolution Tuesday.
“It’s rolling,” said VCDL President Philip Van Cleave. “We’ll get the lion’s share.”
The VCDL defines a Second Amendment sanctuary as “any locality that says it will not enforce unconstitutional (federal or state) gun laws.”
Isle of Wight County supervisors have taken a request to declare it a Second Amendment sanctuary under advisement, according to The Smithfield Times, while Southampton County approved a resolution Nov. 25.
Supporters of the resolution have turned out in droves to local government meetings across the state, worried that Democrats will push through gun control measures with majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly and with Democrat Ralph Northam as governor.
Already, there are pre-filed measures calling for various gun control laws to be enacted.
A local group, Suffolk 2A Advocacy, has formed to support the resolution and to support gun rights. On its website (2aadvocacy.homesteadcloud.com), the group says that “the resolution would send a message to the state that Suffolk will not put up with restrictive gun control laws passed by state legislature. The resolutions can vary, but generally, Second Amendment sanctuaries refuse to dedicate resources to enforcing things like ‘red flag’ laws, bans on certain weapons and confiscation.”
The group also plans to present a petition to council and will be passing out “Guns Save Lives” stickers. It also has a closed Facebook page with nearly 1,400 followers through early Tuesday evening.
Van Cleave said that while it is focused on all gun control measures being introduced in the General Assembly, it is paying attention to two in particular — SB 16, authored by Sen. Richard Saslaw, a Democrat who represents Northern Virginia’s 35th District, and SB 64, authored by Sen. Louise Lucas, a Democrat from Portsmouth who represents the 18th District, which includes part of Suffolk.
Saslaw’s bill would expand the definition of assault firearms and “prohibits any person from importing, selling, transferring, manufacturing, purchasing, possessing or transporting an assault firearm,” according to the summary of the bill, and if found guilty, the person would be convicted of a felony.
The proposed new definition of assault firearms is listed below. In general, it includes semi-automatic weapons with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.
The bill would also ban dealers from selling, renting, trading or transferring an assault firearm to anyone, and it would prohibit someone “from carrying a shotgun with a magazine capable of holding more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered in a public place,” and would be a misdemeanor offense. Under current law, that prohibition only applies in certain localities.
SB 64, according to a summary of the bill, would provide that someone is guilty of unlawful paramilitary activity if that person gets together with another person “with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons by drilling, parading, or marching with any firearm, any explosive or incendiary device or any components or combination thereof.” It would be classified as a felony.
“Who are they affecting? What problem are they addressing? Where’s the problem with rifles? Rifles are almost never used in crimes,” Van Cleave said. “It’s so rare.”
Brewer expects more gun control bills to be filed up to and even after the start of the General Assembly in January.
“Some of these bills — what is their viability?” Brewer said. “I mean, clearly I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment. I believe the Second Amendment is a constitutional right, and when you have people run for office who talk about gun control, that’s one thing, but some of the bills, especially SB 16 and SB 64, I believe, are pretty egregious.”
With those two bills alone, which according to Brewer would alter people’s ability to own firearms “to an extreme degree,” she said she can understand why Second Amendment groups have formed quickly.
Delegate-elect Clinton Jenkins, who will represent the 76th District, said he has yet to hear from anyone on the Second Amendment sanctuary resolution, but he plans to return from Richmond — where he is attending meetings ahead of the upcoming General Assembly session — to attend the council meeting and hear people’s views on the issue. Brewer said she wanted to be at the council session, but meetings in Richmond would prevent her from making it.
“The jury is still out,” Jenkins said, “and I’m still getting my research and getting all the facts together, making sure I’m clear on all the issues before I make a decision on which way to go.”
Attorney General Mark Herring previously released a statement calling the Second Amendment resolutions already passed by localities “nothing more than symbolic.”
Democrat Delegate Jay Jones of Norfolk sent a letter to Herring Monday asking for a legal opinion on the matter.
“The bills passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor are binding for our entire Commonwealth and its citizens,” Jones wrote. “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 country to dissolve into a civil war.”
But Van Cleave said a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution would send a message to residents that localities are watching out for them, and to state legislators, that there is widespread support for gun rights across the state.
“It’s a strong political statement,” Van Cleave said. “It’s showing strong support for the right to keep and bear arms. It’s good PR for the (localities). It’s good for them to keep watch over their citizens.”
The expanded definition of an assault firearm in the proposed SB16 would include:
1. A semi-automatic center-fire rifle that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material with a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 10 rounds;
2. A semi-automatic center-fire rifle that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has one of the following characteristics: (i) a folding or telescoping stock; (ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the rifle; (iii) a thumbhole stock; (iv) a second handgrip or a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand; (v) a bayonet mount; (vi) a grenade launcher; (vii) a flare launcher; (viii) a silencer; (ix) a flash suppressor; (x) a muzzle brake; (xi) a muzzle compensator; (xii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting (a) a silencer, (b) a flash suppressor, (c) a muzzle brake, or (d) a muzzle compensator; or (xiii) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (xii);
3. A semi-automatic center-fire pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material with a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 10 rounds;
4. A semi-automatic center-fire pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has one of the following characteristics: (i) a folding or telescoping stock; (ii) a thumbhole stock; (iii) a second handgrip or a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand; (iv) the capacity to accept a magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip; (v) a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the pistol with the non-trigger hand without being burned; (vi) a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded; (vii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting (a) a silencer, (b) a flash suppressor, (c) a barrel extender, or (d) a forward handgrip; or (viii) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (vii);
5. A shotgun with a revolving cylinder that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material; or
6. A semi-automatic shotgun that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material that has one of the following characteristics: (i) a folding or telescoping stock, (ii) a thumbhole stock, (iii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the shotgun, (iv) the ability to accept a detachable magazine, (v) a fixed magazine capacity in excess of seven rounds, or (vi) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (v).
“Assault firearm” includes any part or combination of parts designed or intended to convert, modify, or otherwise alter a firearm into an assault firearm, or any combination of parts that may be readily assembled into an assault firearm.