The squabble over proposed gun control legislation in Virginia has become one of the most talked-about subjects on social media--and as usual, much of what you read there isn't true.
Now, the wild discussion has spread to other states including North Carolina. Several Virginia counties passed what are called "Second Amendment Sanctuary" resolutions. A few North Carolina counties have passed similar resolutions--although the meaning and intent may differ somewhat from those in Virginia--and now Lincoln County Commissioners will consider (and no doubt pass unanimously) such a resolution at their meeting Monday night (Jan. 6th).
I'm sure many will express their anger about it, but I think it's not only right, it's our duty, to report what is really true (and tell what is not); so here it is, and if it upsets you, well Scarlett...
First, the resolution Lincoln County Commissioners will pass can be read at http://www.lincolncounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/14143.
There's nothing wrong with the resolution, as I told one Commissioner when he informed me about what they were going to do, but as I told him, it's largely a political statement and totally useless. Why? The Constitution of the US is the law--the supreme law of the country--and it is the law whether or not any state or county chooses to agree or disagree. The 'gun rights' folks will no doubt like the resolution, but it's no more significant than a resolution declaring that the County favors other Constitutional amendments and that it will not use 'public funds, resources, employees, buildings or offices' to restrict any other Constitutional right.
Second, as already mentioned, the intent of the local resolution is somewhat different from the intent of "Second Amendment Sanctuary" resolutions passed by several Virginia counties.
For anyone who doesn't already know, the Democrats are about to take over control of both houses of the Virginia legislature, and the state has a Democratic governor. That shift in power is creating an opportunity for those favoring stronger gun control laws to pass them. Whether or not they can withstand a Constitutional test is yet to be decided; whether or not they'll be enforced is also still at question.
By way of background, current Virginia laws do not require a permit to purchase rifles, shotguns or handguns, do not require firearm registration or licensing, do not require any kind of permit to carry a rifle or shotgun.
Current laws also don't regulate the transfer or possession of higher-powered (.50-caliber) rifles or large capacity ammunition magazines. Virginia state law doesn't require any background check before transferring a firearm between individuals, imposes no waiting period before the sale of a firearm, doesn't require owners to report lost or stolen guns. Concealed carry does require a court-issued permit and gun dealers must contact state police for a background check before they make a sale.
There are some restrictions on so-called assault firearms, currently defined as being designed to accommodate a silencer or folding stock, and having a magazine that can hold over 20 rounds. Non-US citizens can’t buy, possess or transport one; and so-called "streetsweepers" (semi-automatic shotguns) are banned.
The proposed new laws would ban assault weapons, silencers and high-capacity magazines (more than 10 rounds for rifles, more than seven for shotguns), require universal background checks on all firearm transactions, limit the purchase of handguns to no more than one per month, allow local governments like counties, cities & towns to pass local ordinances banning firearms from libraries and other government buildings, require that all thefts of firearms be reported to police within 24 hours after the gun or guns went missing, prohibit possession of guns by a person under a court-issued protective order.
Another proposal would more severely punish adults who allow access of a loaded, “unsecured” firearm to someone 18 or younger. Another, details of which are still sketchy, would address "ghost guns," guns made from parts and therefore technically not yet weapons and therefore not covered by the existing or other proposed legislation.
The proposed legislation has set up the possibility of open defiance. The Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun lobby, said on its website that “law enforcement officers do not have to, and shouldn’t, enforce any unconstitutional laws.”
Over 100 counties, towns and cities in Virginia have adopted "Second Amendment Sanctuary" resolutions, vowing not to enforce any “unconstitutional” gun laws. It's a bit like (although on a different subject) the few North Carolina sheriffs who have decided not to cooperate with ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) because they say they don't have to enforce federal laws.
The resolution Lincoln Commissioners will pass is not intended to shift the decision over what laws are or are not Constitutional to the local level. Sheriff Beam in taking his oath of office vowed to enforce state laws that do not contradict US law. The decision over what is and what is not Constitutional is not his--nor the Commissioners'--it is a matter that if needed would be decided by the courts.
The proposed Virginia law changes aren't yet finalized--there were some proposals submitted last year when the Republicans still held control in the legislature; but the proposals don't include a lot of what some are claiming (without substantial evidence) that they do. There is no proposal to do away with bows & arrows--there are already existing laws that restrict their use where they might cause danger to the public, local ordinances that prohibit them being used in highly populated areas and such. While it wasn't a part of the original bills as introduced, a 'grandfather clause' would protect those who already own some guns that would be illegal under the new proposals.
As said, the Lincoln County Commissioners will almost certainly pass the resolution--and there's nothing wrong with it based on its wording. It is, however, pointless from a legal standpoint--since it says only that they'll comply with the Constitution, and they really don't have any other choice. It is, however, 'good politics' in this county and will no doubt be applauded. It makes about as much sense as a resolution saying we like apple pie. What's wrong with that?