In the Short Rows 12-11-19

Published 12:09 pm Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Sanctuary movement is wacky

Many Virginians — probably most — have never heard of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. It’s time to learn more about them.

This group advocates virtually unrestricted gun rights. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a fringe view in the United States and in Virginia, but it’s a totally protected view and deserves respect as such.

Now, however, the Defense League is using a tactic that should be a concern to Virginians. It is asking local Boards of Supervisors to adopt a resolution that, carried to its logical — and extreme — conclusion, would pit governing bodies against the Commonwealth of Virginia and even their own law enforcement organizations.

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In an obvious play on words (and slam at immigration moderates) the group is asking Boards of Supervisors to declare their localities “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” — places where the Second Amendment will be safe. A resolution doing just that will be on the Board of Supervisors agenda for action Thursday.

The two-page document is carefully worded to say that the county will oppose any “unconstitutional” infringement of gun rights, but therein comes the rub. Isle of Wight County and the commonwealth are already bound not to enforce laws that have been declared unconstitutional by the one agency in the United States empowered to declare them unconstitutional — the U.S. Supreme Court.

But that’s not really what this document is all about. It is a lobbying tool, pure and simple. When the General Assembly convenes in January, the Defense League will wave copies of these “sanctuary” documents and tell legislators that the boards of supervisors of Virginia counties have declared their opposition to whatever the Defense League believes will be an unconstitutional gun rights restriction. 

And you may rest assured that the Virginia Citizens Defense League will consider all gun restrictions unconstitutional. It’s already said as much in the resolution now being considered by Isle of Wight County.

“Certain legislation that has or may be introduced in the Virginia General Assembly … could have the effect of infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.”

In their sales pitch to the Board of Supervisors two weeks ago, Defense League members and backers made it clear that, in their view, Gov. Ralph Northam is the Great Satan in this fight, for it was Northam who appealed to the General Assembly this past summer to enact a handful of gun restrictions. 

Northam called a special session of the General Assembly to consider his proposals and Republican legislators responded by adjourning the session a couple of hours after it was convened. 

Virginia voters, on the other hand, responded to that maneuver by delivering a majority of Senate and House of Delegates seats to Democrats.

Now, this group of gun rights diehards is trying — with considerable success, they say — to enlist local Boards of Supervisors in their fight. 

Once this resolution has been adopted, the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors will lose all control over its use and interpretation. That will be left to the Defense League, which will use it as a carte blanche condemnation of any reasonable gun legislation.

Extended to its extreme, however, the resolution does far more than say Isle of Wight opposes all gun restrictions. It says the Board of Supervisors will oppose enforcing “unconstitutional” laws. Will gun rights enthusiasts then expect the Board of Supervisors to defy Virginia law? Will they expect boards of supervisors to defund sheriff’s departments that enforce those laws?

This whole thing is just plain wacky, and the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors would do well to walk away from it.