WINCHESTER — With about a thousand people crowded into and around the County Administration Building, the Frederick County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday night unanimously adopted a resolution opposing any laws that would infringe on the Second Amendment rights of its citizens to keep and bear arms.
“There is nothing illegal or improper in stating on the record that we support the constitution and our constitutionally protected rights,” Gainesboro District Supervisor J. Douglas McCarthy said.
Red Bud District Supervisor Blaine Dunn agreed. “This resolution we have on the Second Amendment is to protect our right to defend ourselves. If you are an 86-year-old woman or a 13-year-old child, and you are having to deal with multiple people coming into your home, having the ability to equalize that situation is critical.”
In recent weeks, 62 of Virginia’s 95 counties, nine of its independent cities and eight towns have adopted so-called Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions, according to online information. The wave of resolutions is in response to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and members of the General Assembly (which Democrats gained control of in the Nov. 5 election) crafting legislation that will be introduced in the upcoming legislative session to reduce gun violence. The proposed measures include requiring universal background checks, limiting the frequency of gun purchases and banning certain firearms deemed assault weapons.
The resolution adopted by the supervisors says the board is “concerned about the passage of any bill containing language that could be interpreted in such a way as to infringe upon the rights of the citizens of Frederick County to keep and bear arms” and that it wishes to express opposition to any such law and that it “declares its intent to oppose any infringement upon the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms using such legal means as may be expedient.”
At Wednesday night’s board meeting, about 50 people spoke, most of whom favored adopting the resolution. Many accused Northam of trying to strip away their constitutionally protected rights. Many said the weapons they own would make them felons if the state bans assault weapons. One couple said the governor’s efforts could start a civil war. Others said stricter gun laws would leave law-abiding citizens defenseless against a shooter.
The overflow crowd filled the 265-person capacity board room and spilled into other rooms and outside the building at 107 N. Kent St. Frederick County Public Information Officer Karen Vacchio estimated 700 people were in the building and several hundred were outside.
County resident Corey O’Donnell, who started the online Change.Org petition, spoke against proposed state Senate Bill 16, which would expand the definition of “assault firearm” and prohibit anyone from importing, selling, transferring, manufacturing, purchasing, possessing, or transporting such a weapon. A violation would be a Class 6 felony. The bill also would prohibit carrying a shotgun with a magazine that can hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered in a public place. Under existing law, this prohibition applies only in certain localities.
“I encourage you today to please help us defend our rights and tell the lawmakers in Richmond that we will not stand for such injustices,” O’Donnell said. “This country was founded by men who took to arms and gained freedom and liberties from a tyrannical government. And now we are losing those freedoms and liberties in every election. I for one will not stand for this type of government overreach, and I will do everything I can to fight back against it.”
The Second Amendment is part of the U.S. Constitution.
Gainesboro resident Daniel Highland told the board “these laws do not make anyone safer, they only leave communities vulnerable to violent citizens and violent government officials.” He also said gun ownership is a right, not a privilege that can be taken away.
Middletown Firearms owner Travis Dodson said gun restrictions could hurt his business.
Del. Dave LaRock, R-Hamilton, and Frederick County Planning Commission member Alan Morrison also voiced their support for the resolution.
“As people remain silent while these kinds of things are happening, the government feels emboldened to act contrary to the law,” Morrison said. “This is all pretext to take away more of our rights and our liberties, one step at a time, until we will all merely be serfs of socialist overlords and no longer citizens.”
A handful of people spoke against the resolution, saying it isn’t necessary and accused the supervisors of pandering to fear. Their comments elicited boos from the audience, and they were told by some in the crowd that they could move to California if they didn’t like the resolution.
Bryan Nuri, who lost his bid for a Frederick County School Board seat in the November election, said the county is bound by Virginia’s Dillon Rule, which limits a local governing body’s authority to only pass ordinances or exercise power in areas where the General Assembly has granted authority. He said the county “has not been given authority to ignore laws from Richmond.” He criticized the resolution, saying it would ask sheriffs to become lawyers and try to interpret what laws are constitutional. He called the resolution “political theater drummed up by the NRA [National Rifle Association] and the Virginia Civil Defense League.” Nuri was booed and told by audience members, “You’re in the wrong meeting buddy.”
Frederick County Sheriff Lenny Millholland said in a phone interview on Thursday that he supports the Second Amendment. “I would not tell my people to go do anything that, number one, the [Frederick County] Commonwealth’s Attorney will not prosecute, and number two would be unconstitutional.”
“I do not have any desire to go around taking people’s guns away, and I don’t intend on doing that,” Millholland said.
He did not directly answer what he would do if the state enacted legislation banning certain types of guns and the county prosecutor decided to prosecute violators, but he insisted he is “not going to violate the Second Amendment.”
In a Thursday email, Frederick County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ross Spicer wrote, “I decline to speculate about what action this office would take under a statute that has not been enacted and under a set of facts that have not yet played out.”
About 100 people attended Tuesday night’s Winchester City Council meeting in support of the Second Amendment, but no action was taken.
And while there’s nothing on the agenda at the upcoming Clarke County Board of Supervisors meeting regarding the Second Amendment, County Administrator Chris Boies said on Thursday that “we’ve heard from folks who say they are going to attend” and that some have inquired about the public comment process at board meetings. “That leads up to believe they are going to speak,” he said.
The Clarke Board of Supervisors meets at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Berryville-Clarke County Government Center, 101 Chalmers Court.
Frederick County’s entire resolution is available at legistarweb-production.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/attachment/pdf/486870/ResolutionAddressingSecondAmendment2019.pdf.
Attending Wednesday night’s meeting at the County Administration Building were Vice Chairman Gary Lofton and board members J. Douglas McCarthy, Judith McCann-Slaughter, Bob Wells and Blaine Dunn. Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr. was absent.