Posted by 12 December 2019
Virginia legislators are gearing up to pass a number of new gun control bills starting January. While it is unclear exactly what will be proposed in the legislature, local officials are already fighting back. They are passing resolutions declaring their counties “Second Amendment sanctuaries,” saying that they want to stand up for gun rights in the face of unconstitutional laws.
Gun control legislation has stalled for years in the Virginia legislature. Democratic governors have pushed for a variety of bills to restrict the sale and ownership of firearms, but Republican legislative leaders have rejected these proposals. But last year, Democrats took control of the legislature. Many of the new members have vowed to enact gun bills, something that Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam supports.
This has prompted city and county governments across Virginia to pass resolutions declaring that they will support the Second Amendment and refuse to enforce what they see as unconstitutional gun laws. These resolutions are similar to what is being done by some local governments in other states in response to gun laws.
While a local government can express opposition to state gun laws, it has no authority to prevent such laws from being enforced within its jurisdiction. State law overrides local law. Law enforcement have a duty to enforce state law, although they do have discretion on how they conduct such enforcement.
While this movement echoes the label of the sanctuary policies that cities, counties, and states have declared regarding immigration, there is one key difference. Those policies affected local and state cooperation with federal immigration laws. The federal government has no power to compel these law enforcement entities to enforce federal law. States do have the power to compel local police and sheriffs to enforce state law.
Gov. Northam has been vague about what he will do in reaction to these sanctuary policies. There have been no new state gun control laws enacted, so it remains to be seen what will happen once these laws go into effect. Gov. Northam has said there could be repercussions for local law enforcement officials who do not comply with state law.
Do you think that local governments should declare they will not enforce state gun control laws they view as unconstitutional?