Political war clouds are gathering over the Commonwealth of Virginia.
This past November, when the Democrats captured both chambers of Virginia’s legislature, Democratic State Senator Dick Saslaw introduced a bill for the 2020 session, SB16, which would more strictly regulate the purchase of firearms and ammunition, and would include “red flag” laws allowing authorities to remove firearms from anyone deemed dangerous.
But what has infuriated gun owners, and thrown the state into an uproar, is a provision that would make it illegal to own or transport any semi-automatic “assault” firearm.
Since the election, more than 80 of Virginia’s 95 counties have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries, declaring that local authorities will not enforce the new gun laws if the legislature passes them. Numerous cities and towns have adopted similar resolutions.
In some counties, officials did more than declare sanctuary status. In Culpeper and Grayson counties, sheriffs have threatened to deputize gun owners, thereby allowing them to keep their weapons. The sheriff of Caroline County has stated that he will form a militia, if necessary, to prevent the seizure of firearms.
It should be noted that the governments of these counties and towns contain a mix of Republicans and Democrats, many of whom declared themselves in favor of Second Amendment sanctuary policies and voted accordingly.
U.S. Representative Donald McEachin, who supports SB16, reacted to these Second Amendment sanctuaries by suggesting that the governor could dispatch the National Guard to enforce new gun laws. To even the most casual observer, that is a laughable proposition. It’s simply impossible to imagine soldiers, all of whom would be Virginians, disembarking from their trucks in Front Royal, where I live, and marching door to door to seize guns. It’s not going to happen.
But McEachin’s other suggestion, that the state might cut certain funding for these counties, could prove a potent weapon in the government’s arsenal. Time will tell on that score.
Regional disparities and differences in the state play a part in this conflict. Like New York City in relation to Western New York State, Virginia is often a house divided against itself. Northern Virginia is urban, liberal, and wealthy. Because of their proximity to Washington, D.C., four of the five wealthiest counties in the entire nation are in Northern Virginia, home to politicians, lobbyists, bureaucrats, and private individuals whose livelihood is interconnected with government. Southern Virginia is composed of smaller towns and farms. Its citizens have much less money than their northern neighbors and tend to be conservative in their politics.
For some, including me, sanctuary cities are never a good idea. In the past, many conservatives have opposed the idea of sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants. Figures vary, but all across the United States there are dozens and dozens of states, counties, and cities that refuse to obey current immigration laws and practices.
Whether for issues of immigration or firearms, this idea creates fissures in our country, a breakdown of the idea of union. By refusing to obey the law, by creating sanctuaries in defiance of that law, sanctuary counties and cities encourage lawlessness.
On the other hand, when the vast majority of Virginia counties declare themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries and tell the government to back off, the Senate, the House of Delegates, and Democrat governor Ralph Northam need to pull their heads out of the sand and take notice. They need to listen to their fellow citizens, and then they need to burn and bury that bill. To pass it into law in the face of such resistance is not only an act of tyranny. It’s just plain old stupid.
The Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia features an armed Roman goddess of virtue standing with her foot on top of a fallen figure representing tyranny. Above her is the state motto Sic Semper Tyrannis, which translates “Thus always to tyrants.”
Apparently, these words still have value and meaning for many Virginians.