When the Commonwealth of Virginia held elections on Tuesday, November 5, the results sent shockwaves throughout rural Virginia counties. Democrats were able to take legislative majorities in the General Assembly elections. With the democrats taking over the majorities for the first time in over twenty years, local second amendment supporters fear what is coming next are laws that will infringe on those rights. Although the next session of the General Assembly does not go into session until January, there has already been movement to push forward with gun law proposals. On Monday, November 18, Senate Bill 16 was pre filed to be heard when the new session opens on January 8. The bill was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (35th District) and the bill is to amend and reenact certain Virginia code sections, and to also add a section numbered 18.2-308.9 which relates to prohibiting the sale, transfer, etc. of assault firearms and certain firearm magazines and the penalties for the violation of the proposed laws. It also redefines the definition of assault firearm.

     The proposed bills will be explained further later in the article. These bills that are being pre filed have a lot of citizens in Mecklenburg and the surrounding counties taking action. These citizens are going to their local Board of Supervisors and requesting that they adopt resolutions declaring their counties Second Amendment sanctuaries. A Second Amendment sanctuary can be defined in many different ways. The main thing is that each individual county that votes to become a Second Amendment sanctuary draws up their own resolutions. There is no universal resolution or document that each county uses, other than a sample resolution provided by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, therefore depending on the county, the definitions may be worded different. 

     The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) has been helping residents of their respective counties in how to get started making their county a Second amendment sanctuary. As stated on their Facebook page, The “VCDL is a non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots organization dedicated to advancing the fundamental human right of all Virginians to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I Section 13 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”  They have even provided a sample resolution to give to their Board of Supervisors if they need. The sample resolution gives a look into what the citizens are asking for when declaring the county a second amendment sanctuary. The sample states that the county voting would uphold the Second Amendment rights of its citizens, that public funds of the county will not be used to restrict the second amendment rights of its citizens or to aid federal or state agencies in the restrictions of said rights, that the county opposes any infringement on the right of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms using such legal means as may be expedient including, without limitation, court action.

     The main priority behind each county that has voted to become a Second Amendment sanctuary is to not expend resources to enforce certain gun control measures perceived as violating their Second Amendment rights. Since none or the proposed laws have yet to be heard, and none of them have been voted on, or signed into law, it is uncertain to which laws these counties will choose to enforce or not to enforce. The Second Amendment sanctuary issue arose in Mecklenburg County shortly after the November 5 elections. Social media lit a fuse that has seen many counties in Virginia, some neighboring Mecklenburg to vote to make them Second Amendment sanctuaries. Those that have passed gun sanctuary resolutions so far are Amherst, Carroll, Charlotte, Campbell, Appomattox, Giles, Lee,  Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania and Dinwiddie. There seems to be a wave rolling throughout Virginia, especially in rural counties, to adopt these resolutions, and it is expected that many more will follow. 

The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors has not met since the Second Amendment sanctuary gained traction, but several people have posted on social media that believe it will be passed at their next meeting on December 9. Several Mecklenburg County residents have posted on social media that they have spoke with Mecklenburg Sheriff Bobby Hawkins and that he stated to them that he will make a suggestion before the Board of Supervisors at their next meeting on December 9 to establish Mecklenburg as a sanctuary county for Second Amendment rights. We were unsuccessful to reach Sheriff Hawkins for comment. 

     The proposed gun laws for the 2020 General Assembly session in Richmond that have been pre filed give Virginia residents a glimpse into what could be voted into law early next year. The Senate Bill 16 which amends many existing laws, mainly defining what “assault firearm” is classified as. There has also been a house bill filed by Delegate Ken Plum that would require universal background checks on firearms purchases. Also, the day after the election, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam appeared on CNN’s “New Day” where he told host John Berman that “getting rid of bump stocks, high volume magazine and red flag laws. These are common-sense pieces of legislation.” Northam went on to say that he would reintroduce these in January, after they failed in a special called session of the General Assembly after the mass shooting in Virginia Beach. Republicans adjourned that session without taking any action.

     In that special called session, Governor Northam introduced eight pieces of legislation to prevent gun violence. Even though these were not voted on, it appears that Governor Northam will reintroduce them in January. Included in this package were universal background checks, bans on dangerous weapons that includes bans on assault weapons, high-capacity magazine, bump stocks and silencers, one handgun purchase within a thirty day period, stolen firearms must be reported within 24 hours, creating an extreme risk protective order allowing law enforcement and the courts to temporarily separate a person from firearms if the person exhibits dangerous behavior that presents a threat to self or others, all individuals subject to a final protective order will be prohibited from possessing a firearm, enhancing the punishment for allowing access to loaded, unsecured firearms by a child from a Class 3 misdemeanor to a Class 6 Felony. 

     The bill also raises the age of the child from 14 to 18 and enabling localities to enforce any firearms ordinances that are stricter than state law, including regulating firearms in municipal buildings, libraries and permitted events. The law also makes it unlawful for any person under 18 to intentionally transport or possess a handgun or shotgun that will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered, but does not apply to any person at their home or property, or while in the home or property of a parent, grand parent or legal guardian, or if the person has written permission from a landowner to be on their property. It also does not apply to any child accompanied by an adult going to and from a lawful shooting range or firearms education course as long as the weapon is unloaded while being transported. It also does not apply to any person actively engaged in lawful hunting or going to and from a hunting area, preserve, as long as the weapon is unloaded while being transported. The main issue that local residents seem to be taking issue to is the new definition of “assault firearm” and that everything included under the new definition would be banned and subject to a Class 6 Felony. 

     It appears that the definition of assault firearm has been amended and the following is the definition(s) that appear in Senate Bill 16 that will be introduced in January.“Assault firearm” means

A semi-automatic center-fire rifle that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material with a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 10 rounds;

A semi-automatic center-fire rifle that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has one of the following characteristics: (i) a folding or telescoping stock; (ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the rifle; (iii) a thumbhole stock; (iv) a second handgrip or a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand; (v) a bayonet mount; (vi) a grenade launcher; (vii) a silencer; (ix) a flash suppressor; (x) a muzzle break; (xi) a muzzle compensator; or (xii) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (xii)

A semi-automatic center-fire pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material with a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 10 rounds. 

A semi-automatic center-fire pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has one of the following characteristics: (i) a folding or telescoping stock; (ii) a thumbhole stock; (iii) a second handgrip or a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand; (iv) the capacity to accept a magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip; (v) a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the pistol with the non-trigger hand without being burned; (vi) a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded; (vii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting (a) a silencer, (b) a flash suppressor, (c) a barrel extender, or (d) a forward handgrip; or (viii) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (vii);

A shotgun with a revolving cylinder that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material; or

A semi-automatic shotgun that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material that has one of the following characteristics; (i) a folding or telescoping stock; (ii) a thumbhole stock; (iii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the shotgun, (iv) the ability to accept a detachable magazine, (v) a fixed magazine capacity in excess of seven rounds or (vi) any characteristic of like kind as enumerated in clauses (i) through (v).

 

“Assault firearm” includes any part or combination of parts designed or intended to convert, modify, or otherwise alter a firearm into an assault firearm, or any combination of parts that may be readily assembled into an assault firearm. “Assault firearm” does not include (i) a firearm that has been rendered permanently inoperable, (ii) an antique firearm as defined in the code. 

It is unlawful for any person to import, sell, manufacture, purchase, possess, or transport an assault firearm. A violation of this section is punishable as a Class 6 Felony.   

     These new definitions are at the center of the second amendment fight, and the forefront of where citizens believe their rights are being infringed upon. It is unknown whether the definition will be amended before it is voted on, or it it will pass, but with democrats now having majorities in both houses of the General Assembly in Richmond, the chances of the bill passing are a lot better than it was in years past. This is why so many counties throughout the Commonwealth are fighting to make sure that their rights given to them by the Constitution are not infringed upon by anyone. The surge of rural counties in Virginia adopting resolutions to become Second Amendment sanctuaries is at an all time high. If what we have seen in the counties surrounding Mecklenburg is any indication of what will happen on December 9, Mecklenburg County will soon join the others as a Second Amendment sanctuary, and make sure that the citizens of Mecklenburg County’s rights are not infringed upon.