BERRYVILLE — The Clarke County Board of Supervisors has formally declared its support for county residents continuing to be able to own and use firearms.
Following a motion by White Post District Supervisor Bev McKay, the board on Monday adopted a resolution urging the General Assembly and Congress “not to adopt or enact any law that would infringe on the right to keep and bear arms in violation of the Second Amendment” of the U.S. Constitution.
The unanimous vote was applauded by about 50 people in the audience, many of whom were wearing orange lapel stickers reading “Guns save lives.”
After it convenes on Wednesday, the General Assembly will consider various gun control measures that opponents fear will hurt their ability to own and use firearms for protection and sport. Measures include universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and so-called “red flag laws” allowing police to temporarily take guns away from people they think could harm themselves or others.
At two supervisors meetings on Dec. 17, hundreds of people filled the Berryville-Clarke County Government Center to express their opinions on the issue. Most who addressed the supervisors urged them to take a stance against the proposed state legislation.
According to County Administrator Chris Boies, residents have told county officials they also are afraid that the federal government eventually will adopt similar laws.
The board consulted with the county’s part-time attorney in preparing the resolution.
“I don’t think anyone considers this resolution to be perfect,” said Berryville District Supervisor Mary Daniel.
But “we really tried to listen to the citizens” and make the document reflect their wishes, Millwood District Supervisor Terri Catlett said.
“The right of the law-abiding citizens of Clarke County to keep and bear arms for the purpose of lawful self-defense and hunting ... is a part of the fabric of this county and must be respected and upheld,” the resolution reads.
It goes on to say that the supervisors “express opposition to any law that would unconstitutionally restrict” that right.
The vast majority of counties across Virginia, as well as many cities and towns, already had adopted similar resolutions. Many of their governing boards also saw numerous opponents of the legislative proposals swell their meetings.
Some of their resolutions effectively declared the localities to be “Second Amendment sanctuaries” where any new laws violating constitutional rights will not be enforced. Clarke’s resolution does not go to that extreme. Instead, it simply expresses the supervisors’ “intent to uphold and defend” constitutional freedoms.
However, “I hope in the future we don’t have legislation that puts counties in this position” of having to adopt resolutions in opposition, said Buckmarsh District Supervisor David Weiss, the board’s chairman.
Copies of the resolution will be sent to Gov. Ralph Northam and the county’s General Assembly and congressional representatives.
Monday’s work session was the supervisors’ first meeting of 2020. Therefore, it was time to elect a chairman and vice chairman for the year. Following motions from Catlett, the board re-elected Weiss and McKay to their respective positions.
The board also welcomed its newest member, Russell District Supervisor Doug Lawrence. He succeeds Barbara Byrd, the county’s first woman supervisor who held the seat for 20 years.
Byrd decided earlier this year not to seek a sixth term.
Weiss said he is confident that Lawrence will bring “common-sense ideas” to county government.