HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Highland County has become the latest 2nd Amendment Sanctuary County in Virginia, with the Board of Supervisors voting to adopt their version of the resolution on January 8, 2020.
The decision follows more and more local governments across Virginia that have declared themselves "Second Amendment Sanctuaries."
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, though it's been an active discussion in each.
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.
In Harrisonburg, Republicans have pushed for the city to hold a vote on becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
"The people naturally rely on the government closest to them to stand up for their rights when the state or federal government does not," said Chairman of the Harrisonburg City Republican Committee Jeffrey Mayfield. "This is neither a Republican nor Democrat issue, this is a constitutional issue."
Mayfield asked Harrisonburg City Council to stand alongside Rockingham County, the Sheriff, and Commonwealth's Attorney and vote on the resolution.
As of January 9, the city of Harrisonburg added the topic to its city council agenda for their regularly scheduled meeting on January 14.
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 resolutions 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.