Gun Control Battle Deepens as Legislation Advances in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va.—Hundreds of Second Amendment advocates converged on Virginias state capital on Jan. 13 to oppose a slew of tighter gun control proposals being voted on by newly elected state lawmakers.

The long line of Virginia residents—many wearing bright “Guns Save Lives” stickers—showed up before 8 a.m. in a show of support for their constitutional rights that they say are being infringed upon. Some gun control advocates attended as well, holding signs with slogans, such as “sensible gun laws equal less gun violence.”

The rallying crowds did little to stop four gun control measures from advancing in the states Democratic-led General Assembly after approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee passed legislation for universal background checks, a measure allowing localities to ban weapons from some events and government buildings, a “red flag” bill allowing authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from certain individuals deemed a risk, and a law that limits the purchase of handguns to only one per month.

NOW: Im at Virginia state Capitol where lawmakers are expected to vote on a number of proposed gun control bills. Many gun advocates are showing up to protest against them. pic.twitter.com/XuAtxreeOQ

— Bowen Xiao (@BowenXiao_) January 13, 2020

In interviews with The Epoch Times, Second Amendment advocates, including local residents, county sheriffs, gun store owners, and Virginias NRA leader, argued the proposed gun control measures were an overreach that violated residents constitutional rights. They said stricter legislation will do nothing to stop criminals from committing crimes and said the focus should be more on mental health.

Second Amendment advocates attend a hearing where four gun control bills passed the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 13, 2020. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed four gun control bills during a hearing at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 13, 2020. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

The four bills now advance to the Virginia Senate for further discussion. They would need to be passed by the Senate, the House of Delegates, and be signed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to become law.

Democrats won control of both chambers of the state legislature in the November 2019 elections and have vowed to enact stronger gun control policies. They believe stricter legislation will help reduce shootings and deaths and would “break the cycle” of gun violence.

The committee ended up largely voting along party lines, but not every piece of legislation was approved passed. One proposed measure (SB-16) that had sparked the most controversy —banning the sale and possession of so-called assault weapons—was taken off the table. According to The Associated Press, an estimated 8 million AR-style guns have been sold since its introduction to the public in the 1960s.

Matthew Thwing, a 41-year-old small-business owner in Virginia, said he attended the hearing to have his voice heard and to show that he and the other “nearly 1,000” Second Amendment advocates werent going to stand for the new agenda pushed by state lawmakers. An additional overflow room had to be opened during the hearing, because of the large numbers.

“I think that if theres a mandate in Virginia, its that they dont want gun control. We dont want gun control,” he told The Epoch Times. “These numbers are tremendous, and you really dont see that kind of turnout for any kind of political event whatsoever.

“Its woken a sleeping giant, if you will,” Thwing added. Some of the Second Amendment supporters took the day off work to attend, while others drove from hours away.

Matthew Thwing, 41, a small-business owner in Virginia, lines up to attend a hearing before four gun control bills passed the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 13, 2020. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

The number of Second Amendment supporters who showed up was not surprising, Matt Rogers, chief of staff to Sen. David W. Marsden (D-Fairfax), said before the hearing. Marsden represents the 37th District in the state Senate.

“There are people here on this side, and on that side,” Rogers told The Epoch Times. “Im absolutely not surprised, its a democracy. Its not a problem and its actually exciting, even if people dont tend to agree with our point of view … this is the right way to address their grievances.”

Rogers said they have to “be mindful” of the Second Amendment, but he added that there are things that can be done “within the bounds” of it.

Daniel Spiker, state director at the National Rifle Association (NRA), expressed disappointment following the results of the committee hearing. He predicted the fight for Second Amendment rights will be a very long and drawn-out fight.

“SB-16 being stricken from the record is an indication that the governor and some of the Democrats have seen that theyve overreached and that these bills have unintended consequences,” he told The Epoch Times.

“Were encouraged by it. But at the end of the day, its still multiple levels of new regulation and new laws imposed on law-abiding citizens,” he said.

State lawmakers have less than 60 days to get all the bills to become law. Spiker said that the result of the NRAs rallying call for citizens to flock to the state capitol “far exceeded their expectations of what the turnout was going to be.

“Its indicative of what this movement is and the enthusiasm were seeing at the local level with engaging their board of supervisors, their city councils,” Spiker said. “Our hope was for that enthusiasm to come to Richmond.”

Daniel Spiker, state director at NRA, after a hearing where four gun control bills passed the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 13, 2020. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

The Second Amendment Sanctuary Movement

On Jan. 7, the city council in Virginia Beach enacted legislation in a 6-4 vote to declare the states largest city a “Second Amendment constitutional city.” In that vote, local residents crowded the building to have their voices heard, with an overflow crowd outside watching the proceedings on a TV screen.

Officials who have adopted such sanctuary resolutions or amendments generally state that they wont follow new gun laws they believe are unconstitutional. Local officials who voted for their counties to become Second Amendment sanctuaries told The Epoch Times the measures they passed were largely symbolic and were made to send a message to lawmakers. They said that any state laws enacted would still supersede any local legislation.

Following the Senate committee hearing, a county sheriff said he wasnt surprised by the committees action, and that he was disappointed he couldnt speak for longer. He said the committee had “their minds made up” and “didnt want to hear any input,” adding that it could affect their seats in the next election.

“I thank them for starting down this road for one reason—its going to flip Virginia back red in so many ways they dont expect,” Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins told The Epoch Times. “Elections have consequences.”

Jenkins said the strong push for tighter gun control has “awakened a population in the state that has long been quiet.

“And that doesnt account for the court battles that are coming, because there are plenty of us willing to battle this out in the court the right way, as well,” he added.

Second Amendment advocates shake hands with Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins (L) after a hearing where four gun control bills passed the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 13, 2020. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins attends a hearing where four gun control bills passed the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 13, 2020. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Jenkins has gone further than others, saying he would “deputize citizens” as auxiliary deputies, if needed, to protect the constitutional right to bear firearms. In early December, Culpeper Countys Board of Supervisors voted 7–0 to affirm itself as a “constitutional county,” prompting a standing ovation by residents who were present for the vote.

Northam and other Democratic lawmakers in the state, meanwhile, have credited their focus on gun control for helping them win full control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than two decades, according to The Associated Press.

Virginia, especially, has become the center of the gun debate, with 91 of the states 95 counties passing some sort of measure affirming their support for Second Amendment rights. A number of municipalities in Virginia have also become sanctuaries.

Hundreds of local counties, cities, and towns across America are declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” or “constitutional counties” as part of an expanding movement over the past few years. In Illinois, at least 70 of the 102 counties in the state have passed some form of sanctuary resolution.

Paul Moog, who works with the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a nonprofit, grassroots organization whose goal is to advance the rights of Virginians to keep and bear arms, said he was very much in favor of the Second Amendment sanctuary movement.

“[We] helped put them in through Orange County,” he said. “Ive been to several other meetings and I think its a great movement that will help defuse some of the tension.”

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress on Sept. 25, 1789, and was ratified on Dec. 15, 1791. The text reads that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Moog claims that the proposed gun control agenda could cause a bigger fight to break out within the state.

“I think that the Democrats are very close to pushing civil war in Virginia,” MRead More – Source