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Gun rights supporters: Fight isn’t over

How much credit should the Second Amendment sanctuary movement get for the failure of the General Assembly to enact an assault weapons ban?

If you ask the movement’s supporters, a lot.

While an assault weapons ban passed the House of Delegates by a 51-48 vote, it died in the Senate Judiciary Committee despite the bill being backed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly.

Four Democrats — state Sens. Chap Petersen, Creigh Deeds, Scott Surovell and John Edwards — joined Republicans on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee to turn aside the bill, HB 961, and send it back to the state’s Crime Commission on a 10-5 vote. Republican Sen. Tommy Norment, who represents a portion of Suffolk in District 3, voted with the majority.

Gary Crossfield, owner of CE Tactical in Suffolk, said gun rights supporters who mobilized over the past several months made a difference with the Senate committee vote and with getting a favorable resolution supporting the Second Amendment from City Council.

“In my opinion, I think it did (make a difference),” Crossfield said. “I’ve never seen a following or a drive from people of that magnitude on any issue in many, many, many years.”

Phillip Van Cleave, as president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, strongly encouraged state localities to adopt Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions. Suffolk’s City Council adopted a Constitutional City resolution in December and strengthened the wording the following month.

Van Cleave also organized a large gun rights rally in Richmond in January, and most recently celebrated the bill’s failure online.

Van Cleave celebrated on his Twitter account following the Senate committee vote. “HB961 went down by a 10 to 5 vote! Everybody’s hard work, Lobby Day and sanctuary movement paid off!”

Van Cleave, who spoke to the committee against the bill, said its defeat was a group effort among gun owners in and out of the state.

Crossfield said he’s pleased that the assault weapons ban has been tabled for the year, but he wants people to know that the fight against it is far from over.

“Of course, I’m happy that it’s been put on hold,” Crossfield said. “I think one of the bad messages that’s being (put) out there is that people are using the words ‘struck down,’ or ‘the bill has been killed.’ It basically gives the mindset to people that this fight is over. This hasn’t ended. This bill hasn’t been killed. it hasn’t been beaten by no means. It’s merely been shelved and put on hold for a year for more investigations. I’m very glad that we have another year to operate, and we have another year to get more knowledge and education about what’s going on.”

He said gun rights supporters will be addressing the same issue next year, “especially if things go south for the gun community in November of this year.”

Sen. Louise Lucas, whose 18th District covers a portion of Suffolk, supported the assault weapons ban and was one of the five votes in the Senate committee voting against tabling the measure for a year.

The assault weapons ban would cover any rifle or pistol with a magazine holding more than 12 rounds and shotguns that can hold more than seven shells.

The bill’s language states, “it is unlawful for any person to import, sell, transfer, manufacture or purchase an assault firearm.”

New Suffolk Delegate Clinton Jenkins voted in favor of the bill both in the House Public Safety Committee and when the bill came before the full House. Delegate Emily Brewer, who represents part of Suffolk in the 64th District, voted against the bill.

Brewer, in a post to her Facebook page, said she would always “stand up against any violations to our Second Amendment rights,” and urged people to “keep contacting your legislators so we can continue to defeat these unconstitutional bills.”

Crossfield hopes legislators will understand the drive and commitment of gun rights supporters.

“One of the main things that I hope people really understand from this, be it lawmakers, candidates, whoever, is, this issue that just went down,” Crossfield said, “I truly believe in my heart, my opinion, that we could have tried to raise taxes 20 percent across the board on everything, and they would not have had the turnout against it as we did on this. I really hope that that just tells them where the people are coming from down here.”