WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV)— On Monday night, Waynesboro City Council unanimously voted on a resolution to become a 'Constitutional City' after weeks of conversations over whether to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
More than three dozen people spoke at Monday night's meeting, with most in favor of becoming a second amendment sanctuary. | Credit: WHSV
The resolution was first discussed two weeks ago during a public hearing the city held at Kate Collins Middle School. During the hearing, many people were upset with the resolution because they didn't feel like it went far enough to protect their rights or as far as other Virginia localities went with their resolutions.
Council voted to become a Constitutional City instead of a Second Amendment City. The measure essentially states that the city will support all parts of the Constitution.
Councilman Bobby Henderson said Virginia is a Dillon's Rule state, which means Waynesboro must do what is legally right under the commonwealth as well, as state law supercedes local law.
The Dillon Rule is a legal principle adopted by the Virginia Supreme Court in 1896 that says local governments have limited authority and can pass ordinances only in areas where the General Assembly has granted clear authority.
It's the same legal principle a judge cited in a ruling preventing the city of Charlottesville from removing Confederate monuments, due to a state law banning the removal of war monuments.
Earlier this month, many people spoke during a public meeting in Waynesboro about how they were unhappy with the wording of the resolution. They wanted the city to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary and they wanted the resolution to say taxpayer money would not be used to enforce unconstitutional laws.
The majority of the people who spoke argued the laws proposed in the General Assembly – like universal background checks and red flag laws – were unconstitutional and would infringe on their rights if passed.
At the meeting on Jan. 13, Henderson said they were required to follow state and federal law, but they did believe the gun control bills proposed in the General Assembly pose a risk to the Second Amendment rights of citizens.
Jim Wood is a Waynesboro resident. He doesn't believe becoming a constitutional city will send the same message to Richmond.
"If they pass it, it's really not going to do anything to help Waynesboro as far as our stand for the Second Amendment," Wood said.
Henderson said earlier on Monday that they have spoke to more people since the resolution was initially introduced. He said it's the same resolution submitted earlier this month. Wood doesn't think it will do enough for residents.
"This constitutional city resolution says we'll obey the Constitution and laws passed by the state. Well, if they pass some of these unconstitutional laws, now you're in a conflict, aren't you," Wood said.
After about three hours of discussion and comments, Waynesboro City Council took no action on a proposed resolution to make the city a constitutional city.
Around 400 people gathered at Kate Collins Middle School in Waynesboro on Monday night to share their thoughts on a second amendment sanctuary resolution. More than three dozen people spoke at the meeting tonight, with the majority of them asking city council to pass a resolution making the city a second amendment sanctuary. '
However, the resolution written by city council would have made the city a constitutional city. City council member Bobby Henderson said Dillon's Rule prevented the city from becoming a second amendment sanctuary. Henderson said they were required to follow state and federal law, but they did believe the bills presented posed a risk to the second amendment rights of citizens.
Many people spoke during the meeting about how they were unhappy with the wording of the resolution. They wanted the city to become a second amendment sanctuary and they wanted the resolution to say taxpayer money would not be used to enforce unconstitutional laws. The majority of the people who spoke argued the laws proposed in the General Assembly were unconstitutional and would infringe on their rights if passed.
Several people said the laws would make people felons overnight. They also argued that in case of emergency, law enforcement would be minutes away and the laws would take away their facility to defend themselves quickly.
"We must affirm the individual right recognized by the second amendment, to keep and bear arm," one Waynesboro resident said. "We must oppose the persecution of individuals exercising their rights for self-defense."
A handful of speakers at the meeting spoke against the idea of a second amendment resolution. One woman argued that while people will get guns illegally, that doesn't mean there shouldn't be laws.
"People are going to break laws," one resident said. "But we need to make laws that are common sense that will help safety in this country."
Another speaker who was against the resolution said she refused to be bullied for her beliefs.
No one on city council made a motion to pass the resolution, so no action was taken. It's unclear if another resolution will be discussed.
Just hours before Monday's meeting, SB 16 was killed in committee. The bill would have expanded the definition of an assault weapon and outlawed them in the state, as well as outlawed the the selling or transfer of any firearm magazine with a capacity for more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
However, an almost identical bill is still in the House of Delegates.
The City of Waynesboro may become the latest locality to declare itself a 'Second Amendment Sanctuary' on Monday night.
The Waynesboro City Council is holding a special hearing at 7 p.m. at Kate Collins Middle School to hear from the community and make a decision on whether to adopt a resolution like the ones taken up by more than 100 Virginia cities, towns and counties in recent months.
People already made their thoughts heard at a regular Waynesboro City Council meeting back in December, with several speaking against the proposed resolution and many speaking in favor of it, but that was a much smaller scale than what's expected Monday evening.
A little after 6 p.m., nearly an hour away from the scheduled hearing, a long line had already formed outside Kate Collins Middle School.
Special hearings on the topic have drawn thousands of people in other Shenandoah Valley localities that have voted to become Second Amendment Sanctuaries, including a href="https://www.whsv.com/content/news/Hearing-set-to-begin-as-Augusta-County-considers-becoming-a-2nd-Amendment-sanctuary-565802181.html" target="_blank">Augusta County, Rockingham County, Page County, and Shenandoah County, as well as the towns of Grottoes, Stanley, and Strasburg.
The town of Mount Jackson is meeting on Monday evening as well.
In Harrisonburg, the topic is on the agenda for the city council's regularly scheduled meeting this Tuesday, Jan. 14.
The statewide 'Second Amendment Sanctuary' movement comes after Democrats won control of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates for the first time in over two decades in November, 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.
On Monday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee struck down one of the most controversial gun bills for the 2020 session – a href="http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+SB16" target="_blank">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.
However, the same committee passed bills to institute a "one gun a month" law for handguns, establish universal background checks, and put into effect red flag laws. Those bills next go before the full Senate, which is narrowly split, with 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans, with some Democrats expressing hesitation about bills that reach far.
To counter possible gun control laws, the concept of becoming a 'Second Amendment sanctuary,' started soon after the election in the fall, 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, 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.