Harrisonburg city council adds Second Amendment Sanctuary discussion to Jan. 14 agenda

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (Jan. 9):

After weeks of Republicans in Harrisonburg pushing for the city to consider adopting a resolution to become a 'Second Amendment Sanctuary,' as over 100 Virginia localities – including every county in the Shenandoah Valley – have done, the city council plans to discuss it at their upcoming meeting.

According to an online agenda posted by Harrisonburg City Council, a "discussion on a request to adopt a resolution in support of protecting Second Amendment rights" has been added as an item for consideration at the council's regular Jan. 14 meeting.

No special hearing is scheduled in a separate space, and the agenda marks it as one of 23 different regular items scheduled for discussion at the council meeting.

Special hearings by other localities have been held in much larger spaces, like school gymnasiums, and have drawn thousands of people in some counties.

Harrisonburg's city council meetings are held at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Harrisonburg City Hall at 409 South Main St.

The day before, January 13, Waynesboro has a special meeting scheduled at 7 p.m. at Kate Collins Middle School to hear public comments and consider adopting a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution.

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As more and more local governments across Virginia declare themselves "Second Amendment Sanctuaries," Republicans in Harrisonburg are asking their city council to follow suit.

In a press release, the Chairman of the Harrisonburg City Republican Committee, Jeffrey Mayfield, said "the committee stands in solidarity with other cities and counties that have become 2nd amendment sanctuaries in order to defend the constitutional rights of the people of Virginia."

According to the Associated Press, more than 100 Virginia cities, towns and counties have passed resolutions expressing their support for gun rights. That includes Augusta County, Rockingham County, Page County, and Shenandoah County, as well as the towns of Grottoes, Stanley, and Strasburg.

Special hearings on the topic each drew thousands of people in each of those areas before decisions were made. None of the Shenandoah Valley cities – Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Waynesboro – have yet voted on the topic.

Waynesboro has a special meeting scheduled for January 13 at Kate Collins Middle School starting at 7 p.m. Staunton City Council heard comments on the topic at a regularly scheduled city council meeting and has made no plans for a special hearing.

Mayfield asked Harrisonburg City Council to stand alongside Rockingham County, the Sheriff, and Commonwealth's Attorney and vote on the resolution.

"The people naturally rely on the government closest to them to stand up for their rights when the state or federal government does not," he said. "This is neither a Republican nor Democrat issue, this is a constitutional issue."

This push comes after Democrats won control of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates, and Governor Ralph Northam pledged to pass "common sense gun control legislation."

Supporters of these resolution argue that proposed gun laws are unconstitutional and infringe on their Second Amendment rights.

A range of bills have been filed for Virginia's 2020 session, including SB 16, which would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor "to import, sell, barter, or transfer any firearm magazine designed to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition" and expand the definition of "assault firearm" under Virginia law, prohibiting anyone from possessing a gun that meets the new definition of "assault firearm." Possessing or transporting a gun under the new definition of an "assault firearm" would become a Class 6 felony.

Senate Bill 18 would raise the age for purchasing a firearm in Virginia to 21 and require mandatory background checks for any transfer of firearms, including private sales, instructing State Police to establish a process for people to obtain the background checks.

Other bills would put red flag laws into place.

To counter possible gun control laws, the concept of becoming a 'Second Amendment sanctuary' means that a county expresses its intent that its public funds not be used to restrict Second Amendment rights.

According to the resolution passed in Rockingham County, for instance, the Board of Supervisors "expresses its continuing intent to uphold, support and defend all rights protected and guaranteed by the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Constitution of the United States."

In an advisory opinion last week, Attorney General Mark Herring concluded that localities and local constitutional officers “cannot nullify state laws” and must follow any gun violence prevention measures passed by the General Assembly.

Still, the Harrisonburg GOP are pushing for the city to join others in sending a message to Richmond not to pass proposed gun laws.