Uncharted legal territory for gun ‘sanctuary’ resolutions in Virginia

8News Digital Exclusive

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As the list of communities declaring themselves Second Amendment “sanctuaries” grows, legal answers may not be immediately available for how challenges could play out in court.

Virginia Democrats are mulling whether to forge ahead with universal background checks for gun buyers, and ‘red flag’ provisions in an effort to potentially reform the state’s gun laws.

For communities passing Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Richmond Ernest McGowen says “there’s this idea that certain people in different backgrounds should actually be able to decide how they want to be governed.”

8News continues to ask what legal weight is actually linked to sanctuary declarations.

For context, McGowen says “Technically what we see in the Constitution, what the Supreme Court has ruled, is that there are some local locales that can prohibit guns to be in certain places–that can do things–take steps that are beyond what the actual regulations for the state of Virginia are. The technical question then becomes, ‘can it go in reverse as well?'”

New population centers and, as McGowen calls it, an increasingly regionalized state are playing into the gun debate, and a potential reason why some communities are pushing back.

“The ideology and culture of Northern Virginia is something that is very different from that of Southwest Virginia. But, because people are moving there, the political weight of Northern Virginia has grown. And so when we look at the population size, when we talk just straight votes, they are pretty much able–especially when they link with Richmond and Hampton Roads–to determine control of the state Senate, control of the House of Delegates. So when we pass these laws, these ‘sanctuary’ laws, as an individual who lives in those locals, I feel like I am taking back some sort of autonomy over the state and over how my community is actually going to be governed.

Ernest McGowen, University of Richmond Associate Professor of Political Science

Additional reporting from 8News on Second Amendment “sanctuaries” can be found here.

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