A bill sponsored by Del. Lee Carter that would make it legal for most state and local government employees—but not law enforcement officers—to go on strike has gun-rights advocates up in arms, resulting in the Manassas-area lawmaker receiving death threats, including one he reported to police last week.
Virginia Capitol Police confirmed Monday that Carter, D-50th, contacted them Tuesday, Dec. 17, to express his concern about a death threats made on Twitter. But the police department declined to comment on whether an investigation is under way.
“There are procedures we follow regarding such matters involving members of the General Assembly or their staffs. We are currently following those procedures and will continue to do so,” Capitol Police spokesman Joe Macenka said Monday, Dec. 23.
Carter said Monday he’s received several explicit death threats and numerous threatening messages on social media since gun-rights advocates began denouncing his bill last week but reported only one to Capitol Police.
“I’ve reported one so far because it was so far above and beyond the rest that it seemed more like a plot than an angry rant,” Carter said.
Gun-rights activists are upset over Carter's HB 67, which they claim is intended to fire law enforcement officers in “Second Amendment sanctuary” counties who decline to enforce new gun laws passed by the Virginia General Assembly.
If passed, Carter’s bill would make it legal for all government employees except law enforcement officers to strike.
A Virginia law on the books for over a half century bans all Virginia government employees from striking. Carter’s bill would not change that law as it applies to law enforcement officers.
“The bill changes nothing for police. They're currently prohibited from striking, and they will continue to be, no matter what happens to my bill,” Carter said. “But if my bill passes, teachers will have that right, which they currently don’t.”
Carter first introduced the bill in January 2019 with the aim of allowing Virginia teachers to go on strike in the wake of the 2018 teacher strikes in West Virginia, Kentucky and Arizona, events that occurred long before Virginia counties began passing “Second Amendment sanctuary” resolutions.
The original bill, which was killed in subcommittee in February 2019, would have allowed all Virginia public employees to go on strike. But according to Carter, lawmakers were concerned that allowing public safety officers to go on strike “would lead to chaos.”
“All the available data says that’s not the case, but regardless, I changed the bill for this year’s session so that it reduced who the strike ban applied [to] from all public employees to just police,” Carter said.
Meanwhile, gun rights enthusiasts have loudly denounced the bill, saying it would remove law enforcement officers from their positions if they refuse to enforce new gun laws.
A news article posted by National Shooting Sports Foundation, the national trade association for the firearms industry, claims Carter’s bill was one of several proposed by Virginia Democrats that would take away lawfully owned firearms from Virginia residents.
“The latest legislation pre-filed for the upcoming 2020 session is proof. Democrat Delegate Lee Carter of Manassas sponsored HB 67, which would apply to any law enforcement official, noting that those who ‘willfully refuses to perform the duties of his employment’ will be terminated and ineligible for future law enforcement employment for another year,” the article says.
This describes what happens to striking law enforcement officers under current Virginia law, however, which would not change if HB 67 becomes law.
Del. Nick Freitas, R-30th, also spoke out about Carter’s bill on online conservative media outlet Townhall Media. Freitas has been supportive of localities passing “Second Amendment sanctuary” resolutions even as Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) has said such resolutions have no force of law.
“Lee Carter has drafted a bill that will punish law enforcement and remove them from their positions for not enforcing state laws,” Freitas said on Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co podcast.
Freitas did not immediately return an email seeking comment Tuesday.
Under current Virginia law, police and other law enforcement officials can be removed from their positions for willfully refusing to perform the duties of their employment. Carter’s bill would not change that.
Virginia Flaggers, a pro-confederacy organization, also tweeted about the bill Sunday.
“Virginia Delegate Lee Carter, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, proposes bill to fire law enforcement officers if they won't enforce unconstitutional gun laws,” the tweet said.
Over 100 localities throughout the state have now passed “Second Amendment sanctuary” or similar resolutions that affirm county board’s support for the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment, according to the gun-rights organization Virginia Citizens Defense League.
Prince William County adopted a measure in after midnight Wednesday, Dec. 11, declaring the county a “constitutional county.” Fauquier County’s Board of Supervisors did the same on Monday, Dec. 23.
Some “Second Amendment sanctuary” resolutions aim to restrict local funding for the enforcement of any new gun laws passed by the General Assembly. The resolutions passed by Prince William and Fauquier county boards do not make such restrictions.
Democrats, who will take the majority in both the House of Delegates and state Senate in 2020, campaigned on enacting gun safety regulations such as universal background checks, extreme risk protective orders and assault-style weapons bans.
Since the Nov. 5 election, local residents across the state have flocked to local board of supervisors’ meetings to ask elected officials to protect the Second Amendment rights of Virginians.
Herring issued a formal opinion Dec. 20 on the actions taken by localities that have passed “Second Amendment sanctuary,” resolutions to declare themselves exempt from new gun safety laws.
“It is my opinion that these resolutions have no legal effect. It is my further opinion that localities and local constitutional officers cannot nullify state laws and must comply with gun violence prevention measures that the General Assembly may enact,” Herring wrote.
A large gun rights rally is being planned for Monday, Jan. 20, at the Virginia Capitol building.
Reach Daniel Berti at firstname.lastname@example.org