A sea change came to Virginia on election day. Democrats won majority control of both houses of the legislature – for the first time in over 20 years. The new power brokers have taken their win to move the state markedly left on many issues, but especially gun control. Prefiled bills in the statehouse would make Virginia swing from a state that broadly respects gun rights to one of the most restrictive if passed. Gun owners have risen to challenge the proposals, not in the legislature just yet, but at the county and city levels. Under a massive pressure wall, those local governments have, at a furious pace, adopted Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions, forbidding local officials from acting in opposition to the Second Amendment.
Let No Good Crisis Go to Waste
On May 31, 2019, a Virginia Beach employee went on a shooting spree, massacring a dozen people at a municipal building. Days later, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) ordered a special session of the legislature to be convened. The legislature, which had adjourned for the year, would be recalled to Richmond to consider previously rejected gun control bills. The rundown of proposals reads like a letter from Sarah Brady to Santa, including universal background checks; bans on “assault weapons,” sound suppressors, and bump stocks; red flag laws; one gun a month laws; and granting local governments increased authority to issue their own new measures hostile to gun rights, among others.
While legislative leaders had no control over the convening of the session, they asserted their power just after it started, ending the farce within 90 minutes of its beginning. Republican Speaker of the House Kirk Cox accused Northam of “an election-year stunt.” That may be just what it was, and effective too, given the results in November.
From Red to Blue
The Democrats last controlled both houses of the legislature in 1994. While the state was recently considered a swing state, that has changed too; it now seems ever bluer. Democrats now control all three statewide elected offices, both U.S. Senate seats, both chambers of the General Assembly, and seven of Virginia’s 11 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Quite a list, and driven in large part not by a change in attitudes of Virginians, but the additions of many new Virginians hostile to gun rights.
In a post-election profile called “How Voters Turned Virginia From Deep Red to Solid Blue,” The New York Times tells us that immigrants, both from other states and other countries, are a big cause. “Unlike three decades ago, the residents are often from other places, like India and Korea. And when they vote, it is often for Democrats.” That’s not all. Those voters are not like the countrified Democrats who may understand and value the right to keep and bear arms:
“Guns, that is the most pressing issue for me,” said a 38-year-old software engineer from southern India, Vijay Katkuri, 38, as he explained why he voted for a Democratic challenger in Tuesday’s elections. “There are lots of other issues, but you can only fix them if you are alive.”
Mr. Katkuri, we learn, had been a resident of New Jersey before he decided to make his home in the Old Dominion. Alas, that state had crime levels that were too high, among other factors, to keep him. The Grey Lady doesn’t mention if Katuri understood that unsafe New Jersey has had highly restrictive gun control laws for generations, while safer Virginia has honored the right to keep and bear arms. Liberals who move from high tax, high regulation lefty states in favor of greener pastures in more conservative jurisdictions seem unable to draw the connections that seem plain as day to the rest of us. Could adopting New Jersey style gun control laws make Virginia less-safe? Mr. Katuri doesn’t seem to have considered this possibility.
Not Lying Down
Virginia gun owners have, and they have responded swiftly and intensely to the coming onslaught against their rights. Over 40 counties and independent cities in Virginia have passed Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions so far, and the list has grown rapidly. Led by the Virginia Citizens’ Defense League*, one of the strongest single-issue state policy organizations, they have mounted a massive backlash against new gun controls. Liberty Nation spoke with VCDL President Phillip Van Cleave about the resistance and sanctuary movement. He said the idea behind the resolutions is to send a message:
“It’s a whole bunch of localities standing up and telling the Democrat leadership in Richmond we don’t want any more gun control. These things affect only the law-abiding, and what they’re suggesting doesn’t do anything for criminals.”
He said no county official needs to enforce an unconstitutional law and called the AR-15 the most popular rifle in the U.S. and Virginia. Van Cleave explained that they were gearing up for a huge showing at the legislature on January 20 for VCDL Lobby Day, when they encourage everyone who cares about maintaining the right to keep and bear arms to come to Richmond and show their support.
Before then, however, many, if not most, counties will be Second Amendment Sanctuaries. Lynn Taylor*, who heads the commonwealth’s leading pro-liberty public policy organization, the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, had this to say about the budding movement: “The 2A sanctuary is a political stance, not a legal protection. Everyone needs to be ready for this reality. Virginia is becoming a battleground for stripping away the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment. We will need some strong men and women out there willing to take this issue to the mat, and even more to support them financially and with their prayers for freedom.” Asked if she knew of a movement that has previously animated Virginians so vigorously, she replied, “not since the Founding.”
*This author has been a member of VCDL. Ms. Taylor sits on the board of Liberty Nation’s parent organization, One Generation Away.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.