Albemarle County residents and other gun rights supporters packed Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting to encourage members to make the county a Second Amendment sanctuary.
In light of the General Assembly’s Democratic majority this upcoming session, local elected officials in localities across Virginia have discussed resolutions stating that they will not enforce any unconstitutional federal or state gun laws.
According to the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights organization, approximately 41 localities in the state have declared themselves a “Second Amendment sanctuary” as of Wednesday afternoon.
A resolution was not on the Albemarle board’s agenda, but community members and gun rights groups circulated information over Facebook and other websites encouraging Second Amendment sanctuary supporters to attend Wednesday’s meeting.
During open public comment, about 20 people spoke in favor of the board passing a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution, while three spoke against it.
Jay Saren asked the board to pass a resolution declaring the county a Second Amendment sanctuary, citing the U.S. Constitution.
“We need you to stand with us to show Richmond that we will not allow our rights to be trampled on,” he said.
The first two speakers were met with rounds of applause, to which Chairman Ned Gallaway asked that those in attendance show their support with a raised hand, which was met with a few boos.
Jody Freeman said she does not own any guns, but is not against guns and is for reasonable gun safety legislation and conversations between both sides of gun regulation arguments.
“I do not believe Albemarle County becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary will enable those conversations to go forward,” she said. “It is time for us to look beyond our own personal wants to what is in the common good for all of the residents of Albemarle County and for the Commonwealth of Virginia as a whole.”
Some speakers cited specific prefiled bills in the upcoming General Assembly session, such as Senate Bill 15 and Senate Bill 16, in their remarks. None of the state legislators who represent portions of Albemarle have yet prefiled any bills related to guns.
Joe Thomas, a local radio talk show host, said the Second Amendment can’t be taken in isolation from the other amendments, and that some of the bills that have been filed already will end up in court.
“These will end up in court because that’s what happens, laws are written and then they’re challenged, their constitutionality is challenged,” he said.
Two counties that border Albemarle have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions — Orange and Louisa — and other nearby counties have future meetings scheduled where elected officials will discuss the issue.
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors members are all Democrats and have publicly supported stronger gun regulations over the last few years. No board members spoke during the meeting Wednesday night about the requests for a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution.
In June, the board discussed and ultimately approved a resolution supporting Gov. Ralph Northam’s call for a special session on gun violence.
Since the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally, the board, multiple times, has supported state legislation that would have prohibited the carrying of specified loaded weapons in public areas. The legislation has failed in the past two sessions.
After the meeting, five board members said they would not propose a resolution to make Albemarle a Second Amendment sanctuary county. Supervisor Norman Dill left the meeting a few minutes early.
Supervisor Liz Palmer said that if the General Assembly passes something and it is not constitutional state officials will get sued and go to court.
“I don’t see any particular reason to do this,” she said. “This is a political issue and the bills have only been prefiled. It’s going to committee.”
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said she would not propose a resolution right now.
“I hope that we will discuss it when there’s something official which has been passed that we need to talk about,” she said.
Chair Ned Gallaway said it’s a state issue that the board doesn’t have the power to oversee.
“Whether this is guns or some other issue … I would probably say the same thing for other sanctuary things that have happened,” he said. “It’s like why are locals butting their nose into things that are clearly federal and state.”
Supervisor Diantha McKeel said some people were reacting to misinformation about the meeting that they read on social media.
“It caused a lot of angst,” she said. “They reacted to something that wasn’t even on our agenda, that we had no intentions of dealing with tonight.”
Supervisor Rick Randolph said that he told a constituent who said he wasn’t listening to voters Wednesday night that on Election Day, state residents made it clear that they wanted reasonable changes in gun laws by electing a Democratic majority that broadly supports that platform.
“And I said, ‘So we heard you, but that doesn’t mean that we’re going to capitulate to a minority,’” he said. “I said, ‘I thought the premise of American democracy was that the majority rules.’”