Virginia Beach — Virginia Beach plans to make the city a sanctuary for gun owners, in anticipation of gun control legislation it expects to see passed into state law, since the legislature is now controlled by Democrats, and the sitting governor, Ralph Northam, is also a Democrat.
The Virginia Beach City Council, by a 6 to 4 vote, adopted a resolution Monday declaring itself a "Second Amendment Constitutional City." It stated "its continued commitment to support all provisions of the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, including the right of the people to keep and bear arms."
Under the resolution, the city government will not use its resources to prosecute anti-gun laws, even though any state laws limiting gun use would supersede the local government's authority.
It also urged Northam and the Virginia General Assembly, which is in session this week, not to take any action that would violate freedoms guaranteed by the state or federal Bill of Rights.
Northam, in a Facebook video posted Tuesday, responded, "Our eight pieces of gun legislation don't threaten the Second Amendment....They are all constitutional." He added, "We have no intention of calling out the National Guard. We're not going to cut off people's electricity. We're not going to go door to door and confiscate people's weapons. We're going to pass common sense legislation that will keep guns out of dangerous hands and keep Virginia safer."
During Monday's special session, which was open to the public, council members heard from citizens and leaders on both sides of the issue. The majority of people who addressed the council supported passing the proposed resolution.
Many of those who favored the measure cited self-defense and the Constitution as the main reasons to approve the measure.
"You are our local government, however, you do not have a duty to protect us," said one citizen.
Other proponents added concerns about slow police response times and fears about being viewed as felons if they don't give up their guns, under laws they fear Democrats will pass.
Former GOP Congressman Scott Taylor, who represented Virginia's Second Congressional District for a term, called gun control bills Democrats are considering in the legislature unfair, unjust and unconstitutional.
"The bills being presented in Richmond are a very far cry from the poll-tested slogan of common sense gun laws that many voters thought they were getting and are not narrowly focused on actually solving a problem," said Taylor.
One citizen, who showed up wearing a gun holstered on his waist, spoke in favor of the proposal and received a warm reaction from the crowd.
There were only a few remarks made in opposition to the resolution, focusing on concerns about restricting the true intent of the Second Amendment. One speaker who opposed the resolution referred to both it and debate as a "dog-and-pony show."
Others, in touting the gun rights protections, claimed there was a racial element to gun control laws in the U.S., that they had first come about as a way to keep former slaves from owning firearms after the Civil War.
Those arguments were countered by citizens who said any historical claims to owning a gun were nullified by the fact that gun ownership rights were "certainly not extended to women or other races."
Several council members also spoke before voting began, including Council Member Aaron Rouse, who recounted his memories of being a student at Virginia Tech during the 2007 mass shooting. He voted against the resolution.
Others noted the fact that Virginia Beach suffered a mass shooting in late May last year that claimed the lives of 12 people and injured several others.
"We would never do anything to dishonor the memory of the people that died that day," Council Member James Wood said.