A push among conservative local officials in Virginia and elsewhere around the country to establish “Second Amendment sanctuaries” aims to nullify new gun control laws in the same way that liberal enclaves defy immigration laws by establishing sanctuaries for illegal aliens.
While the gun sanctuary movement did not start in Virginia, it has spread there like wildfire in recent weeks as incoming Democrats who will control both legislative chambers and the governorship have pledged to enact new gun restrictions and, possibly, gun confiscation of newly-banned firearms.
In all, more than 90 percent of Virginia jurisdictions have declared themselves to be gun sanctuaries, drawing the ire of state Democratic officials including the attorney general, who has said they are illegal.
Citing “recurring incidents of gun violence,” AG Mark Herring said in an advisory opinion Saturday that Second Amendment sanctuary declarations have “no legal effect.”
The opinion, requested by Norfolk Democrat Jay Jones, goes on to say that since “all actions of the General Assembly are presumed constitutional,” then “all localities and local constitutional officers are required to comply with all laws enacted by the General Assembly.”
Critics of the AG and Democrats say the same philosophy, then, applies to federal immigration laws that some Virginia communities and hundreds of other jurisdictions around the country routinely ignore: Those laws were also presumed to have been passed constitutionally by Congress.
As for the gun sanctuary movement, it began in earnest last year in Illinois and quickly spread to numerous states, including California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida, in response to new gun control legislation passed by Democrat-run cities and counties.
In Virginia, where the National Rifle Association is headquartered, both parties have traditionally supported gun rights. But in recent months since obtaining full control of the legislative processes, Democrats in the state have vowed to implement new restrictions including bans on so-called “assault weapons” and possible confiscation of those weapons if they’re not turned in or sold.
Incoming State Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw has enraged gun rights advocates and helped fuel the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement with a proposal that would make it a felony to sell, manufacture, purchase or possess assault weapons and certain magazines.
Since then, Saslaw has admitted that allowing current owners of the weapons to keep them “makes sense.”
However, many Virginia residents believe that his bill is just the first step toward wider confiscation.
“We have the right to defend our households and we have the right to defend ourselves—period,” Jake Eubanks, 35, of Buckingham County, about 75 miles west of Richmond, told The Associated Press. His county has declared itself a gun sanctuary.
David Campbell, vice chairman of the Effingham County Board in Illinois, said his county was one of the first in the nation to pass a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution in April 2018.
He said he and a local prosecutor chose the word “sanctuary” as a swipe at Democratic leaders who used the word to describe their refusal to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement in the “sanctuary cities” movement.
“We thought, well, if they can do that, why can’t we make Effingham County a sanctuary for legal, law-abiding gun owners?” Campbell said.