Questions loom over the legal authority of Virginia’s gun rights sanctuaries

Virginia News

Many people anticipate new, tighter gun laws in this upcoming legislative session after Virginia flipped blue. Gov. Northam said it’s one of his top priorities.

More than 40 cities and counties in the commonwealth have declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.”

After the Virginia Beach shooting there was a push among Democratic legislators to make the commonwealth’s gun laws more strict.

The cities and counties becoming “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” basically say they will ignore and not enforce new state gun laws. The big question is if it’s legal for those cities and counties to do so.

“It is about defending our rights against tyranny,” said a Louisa County resident.

Localities that have declared themselves “sanctuaries” said they will essentially ignore any new state gun laws.

“We’ve got plenty of gun laws, too many,” said gun-rights activist Phillip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. “These localities won’t attempt to enforce or spend money on enforcing unconstitutional gun laws.”

On Wednesday, 8News spoke with legal analyst Russ Stone about whether it’s legal for these localities to do so.

“They cannot really say we’re not going to have this be the law anymore in our locality,” Stone explained. “But, what they are saying, as a practical matter, is we are encouraging our law enforcement community not to enforce those laws.”

8News reached out to Attorney General Mark Herring for his thoughts on Virginia cities and counties declaring themselves gun rights sanctuaries. Charlotte Gomer, a spokeswoman for Herring, shared a statement on Wednesday.

“These resolutions appear to be nothing more than symbolic since no new gun laws have passed or even been considered yet. It’s not clear what a second amendment sanctuary is, what its proponents are hoping to accomplish, or what authority they think they have to preemptively opt-out of gun safety laws, but if the Virginia Citizens Defense League is circulating it you can bet it’s a bad idea. If the General Assembly passes new gun safety laws, as Virginia voters demanded just a few weeks ago, we expect that everyone will follow the law and keep their citizens safe.”

Despite what critics say, Van Cleave says gun rights activists plans to fight anyway they can.

“We’re well prepared to sue and get injunctions to prevent these things from taking effect if we have to,” Van Cleave said. “But the main thing is trying to get them not to be put into law.”

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