Line in the Sand or Symbolic Statement: 2nd Amendment Sanctuary Movement Grows in Virginia

Dec 20, 2019


Amelia county resident Troy Carter speaks to the county Board of Supervisors shortly before they vote to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
Credit Mallory Noe-Payne / RADIOIQ


In the past week at least five more Virginia localities have voted to become Second Amendment Sanctuaries, a symbolic gesture of support for gun rights. One of the most recent votes was in Amelia County Wednesday night.




The Amelia County Board of Supervisors was expecting a crowd, so they moved the meeting to the local high school auditorium. 


Hundreds streamed inside,many stopping to buy a t-shirt from Lisa Wilkinson. 


“Because it’s important to present a united front and I think that when you have custom shirts made that we look like a group,” Wilkinson explained, waving the ‘Don’t Tread on Amelia’ gray t-shirts. 


John Keller and his friend came from neighboring Chesterfield County to be a part of that united front. 


“It’s important that we all bound together to continue the rights that we have, it’s our god given rights from our founding fathers of this U.S. Constitution,” said Keller. 


According to the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun rights group, more than sixty localities have now passed resolutions of support for gun rights all over the state -- from Chesapeake, to Prince William County, to far western Scott County. 


The movement comes as Democrats are poised to take control of the state legislature for the first time in decades. They’ve promised to pass gun control measures like requiring background checks for gun purchases, and a ban on assault-style rifles. 


Attorney General Mark Herring says if the laws pass, they will be enforced and followed. 


“What we’re talking about are the kind of common sense gun safety laws that will save lives and make our community safer,” said Herring. Herring issued an advisory opinion Friday that said the resolutions "have no legal effect."


But for many residents in parts of rural Virginia, there’s a sense that the new Democratic majority may be about to overstep its bounds. 


“We can’t depend on people in Northern Virginia to protect us out here in the woods of Amelia County. It’s just not gonna happen,” said Troy Carter, a resident of Amelia who turned out for the vote. 


Carter says he’s proud of his friends and family for showing up and fighting for what he calls their “god-given rights.” He blames voters in more populated areas, like Richmond and Northern Virginia, for electing politicians who he says want to interfere in his community. 


“So while we’ve been working hard, paying our taxes, and doing what we supposed to do, there’s other people that have been trying to do social things in these areas and now it’s come to our footsteps. It’s come to our doors,” said Carter. 


Carter hopes the resolution sends a message to lawmakers. 


Richard Schragger, a legal expert at the University of Virginia, says that’s really the best supporters can hope for. The resolutions aren’t legally binding, because state law trumps local law. 


“A citizen in one of these places can’t say ‘Well we just aren’t going to abide by state law.’,” said Schragger. 


Still, Virginia communities do have a history of choosing not to enforce mandates from a higher authority. Think massive resistance to Supreme Court-ordered school integration in the 1950’s.


Ernest McGowen at the University of Richmond, says the second-amendment sanctuary movement shouldn’t be underestimated. 


“This is just another iteration of the same kind of phenomenon,” said McGowen.


Back in Amelia the board votes unanimously to become Virginia’s latest Second Amendment sanctuary.  After the vote, people step up to the stage doling out hearty handshakes to their board members. 


Board member Carroll Barnard tells them all it’s the most important vote he’s taken in his fifty years in local government.

 This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.