Corey Stewart, the outgoing Republican at-large chairman of the Prince William Board of Supervisors, will introduce a measure to declare the county a “Second Amendment sanctuary” at Tuesday’s board meeting. But Chairman-elect Ann Wheeler, a Democrat, says the new board will repeal any such effort as soon as it takes over in January.
Stewart announced his intent to carry the resolution during a Monday morning interview on WMAL, a conservative talk radio station based in Washington. More than 20 other Virginia localities have passed similar resolutions and an additional 30 are discussing them ahead of the 2020 General Assembly session. Democrats won control of both houses of the state legislature – as well as the Prince William County Board of Supervisors -- in November.
“Second Amendment sanctuary” resolutions passed in other localities aim to ensure that local tax dollars are not used to restrict Second Amendment rights. However, the measures do not exempt Virginia residents from having to comply with any new gun laws approved by state lawmakers in the coming year.
“We're going to be doing what a bunch of localities have already done in Virginia and say, ‘Look, you can pass your laws but that doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to use local police or the local sheriff’s office to help enforce those laws,’” Stewart said.
But, Stewart added, “Federal and state laws pre-empt a local ordinance, and we’re not proposing something that’s going to conflict with federal or state law.”
It’s unclear how county law enforcement would be able to skirt enforcing new gun laws enacted by the Virginia General Assembly.
Wheeler sent a press release shortly after Stewart’s announcement Monday morning pushing back against his proposal.
“I want to be clear – any efforts by the outgoing Board to hamper the enforcement of new gun safety legislation passed in Virginia will be immediately repealed when the new board takes office in January,” Wheeler said. “Change has come to Prince William County. The residents voted, and the board will reflect their voice.”
Democratic lawmakers, who will have majority control of both the House of Delegates, state Senate and governor’s mansion for the first time in a generation, have pre-filed over a dozen gun-related bills ahead of the 2020 session, including measures requiring universal background checks, enabling “extreme-risk protective orders,” which would allow a judge to remove weapons from individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others, and bans on assault-style weapons.
In the past, Virginia Republicans have stymied Democrats’ proposed gun legislation, including last July when Republicans voted to postpone and ultimately cancel a special session on gun violence called by Gov. Ralph Northam (D).
At the Nov. 26 board of supervisors’ meeting, about 70 gun-rights activists lined up to ask the board to declare Prince William County a “Second Amendment sanctuary.” But it was unclear until today whether any supervisor would take up the cause.
County resident Joe Genarro, 58, said lawmakers heading to Richmond next year want to, “trample on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
“I respectfully ask that you guys lead the way and join us in protecting our constitutional rights,” Generro said at the meeting.
Supervisors will hold a public hearing and vote on the measure during the 7:30 p.m. session of their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10. It will be the final meeting of the outgoing board before the new board takes over.
The new board, which will have a 5-3 Democratic majority. The current board has a 6-2 Republican majority.
Woodbridge Supervisor-elect Margaret Franklin (D) issued a statement Monday opposing the proposed sanctuary resolution, echoing Wheeler’s stance on the issue.
“I am appalled that the outgoing Board of County Supervisors would attempt to pass a resolution without considering the harm that gun violence has had on residents throughout the Commonwealth and the impact on our local community,” Franklin said.
“I stand with Chairwoman-elect Ann Wheeler in opposing any efforts by the outgoing Board to hamper the enforcement of new gun safety legislation passed in Virginia.”
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