Supervisors approved a resolution early Wednesday declaring Prince William a “constitutional county” rather than a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” removing language barring local funds from being used to enforce state and federal gun laws.
The board voted in favor of the revised resolution 6 to 2, with Supervisors Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, and Victor Angry, D-Neabsco, voting against it. About 50 Virginia counties have passed related initiatives – some declaring themselves “sanctuary” counties, others using the more moderate “constitutional county” moniker -- in recent weeks.
The resolution was introduced for the first time at about 12:15 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11, after the board heard about three hours of public comment on Board Chairman Corey Stewart’s proposed “Second Amendment sanctuary” resolution, which he introduced Tuesday, Dec. 3.
Supervisor Ruth Anderson, R-Occoquan, read the full resolution aloud. It urges state and federal lawmakers to “preserve, uphold and protect” the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens but leaves out sections of the original resolution that stated the county’s intent not to aid federal or state agencies in enforcing measures deemed restrictive of Second Amendment rights. The revised resolution had not been posted on the board of supervisors' website at the time of the vote, but county staffers handed out copies during the meeting.
After Anderson finished reading the measure, Supervisor Marty Nohe, R-Coles, clarified that the resolution did not include the word “sanctuary” and thus asked nothing out of the ordinary from local law enforcement agencies.
“I don’t see in this anything declaring us a ‘sanctuary county,’” Nohe said.
In an interview after the vote, Stewart, R-At Large, said the original resolution was modified “over the weekend” to remove the word “sanctuary,” which would imply that the county police would not enforce measures deemed unconstitutional.
Stewart said the resolution was revised after consulting with the county police department and county staff to remove language considered problematic. As an example, Stewart said the “model resolutions” promoted by gun-rights groups asked counties to pay for the legal representation for residents who refused to comply with restrictions on firearms.
Still, Stewart downplayed the change. “It’s almost identical in terms of its effect,” Stewart said of the measure.
Despite the modifications, Angry said he could not support the resolution because it did not offer any remedies for gun violence or offer ideas to promote gun safety.
“I believe in my Second Amendment rights, but I was elected to serve all the people,” Angry said. “… What we have to do is get people together to find solutions.”
A crowd of over 1,000 people attended the meeting, which ran until 12:30 a.m.
More than 70 county residents lined up to ask the board to declare Prince William a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” saying gun reforms proposed by state lawmakers ahead of the 2020 General Assembly session, such as universal background checks, extreme risk protective orders and a ban on assault weapons, would violate their constitutional rights.
Nokesville resident Paul Fraser spoke in support of the sanctuary resolution, saying “there would be hundreds of future felons in the room” if the General Assembly passes legislation banning assault-style weapons in Virginia.
George Dodge, a resident of the Coles District, said the sanctuary resolution would “show that the current board respects the U.S. Constitution,” even though the next board could overturn it when they take office in January.
Two Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, Mary Knapp and Thomas Speciale, urged the board to adopt the sanctuary resolution. Both are running against Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D) in the 2020 election.
Just five county residents spoke against the resolution.
Supervisor-elect Kenny Boddye, D-Occoquan, who will take office in Jan. 2020, also briefly spoke on the matter but didn’t say whether he would support the resolution. After the meeting, Boddye said he would need to read the revised resolution before deciding his position.
Boddye said he had family members who had been victims of gun violence but understood “how folks could be concerned about what’s coming in Richmond.”
Tuesday’s meeting was the final meeting of the current board of supervisors, which has a 6-2 Republican majority. The new board of supervisors, who take office Jan. 1, will have a 5-3 Democratic majority.
Chairman-elect Ann Wheeler (D) said the incoming board would repeal any resolution declaring the county a “Second Amendment sanctuary” as soon as possible if the outgoing board approved it.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Paul Fraser. The Prince William Times regrets the error.