Virginia’s Second Amendment Sanctuaries

(from reddit=VAGuns)
(from reddit=VAGuns)

On November 5th, control of both the House and Senate of the Virginia General Assembly flipped to Democrat control. The Virginia Democrats owe a huge debt to Michael Bloomberg for the millions he poured into the state, and they are returning the favor by pushing extreme, unconstitutional infringements on gun owners. They should have done better by Virginia.

Examples include magazine capacity limits, outright bans on AR-15 style rifles without grace periods, and new legislation that insinuates that lawful, respectable gun owners should be barred from carrying at the Assembly because we might “intimidate” others. These are just some of the infringements we face in a state that historically has been rational and supportive about gun ownership.  DRGO has analyzed all these ideas before and put them in their place: the trash bin. Although the session will not begin until January 8, these Second Amendment infringements have been pre-filed in the General Assembly [to find them, click <Other Sessions> on the left and select “2020”, then click <All Legislation> on the right].

Second Amendment advocates throughout Virginia have wasted no time making their opposition heard and have appealed to their local elected officials—city councils, boards of supervisors, and sheriffs—to consider making their locality a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” county or city.  These narrowly-worded resolutions read that the sanctuary jurisdiction “expresses its intent” to “uphold the Second Amendment” and ”that public funds . . . [shall] not be used to restrict the Second Amendment rights of the citizens.”

Thus far, with Greensville County joining the movement just today, 22 Virginia counties have declared themselves 2A sanctuaries, and in all but 6 of the other counties action is pending.

Unsurprisingly, the confiscation crowd has seized upon this grassroots effort and grossly mischaracterized it.  Even though law-abiding Virginian gun owners have not broken any laws, once again we find ourselves accused of terrible misdeeds.

Norfolk Delegate Jay Jones accuses gun owners of having “bombarded” local officials with requests, as if civic engagement is somehow wrong.  I have a bit of sympathy for the beleaguered legislators: they are not used to hearing from us because we overwhelming follow the law and leave others alone.  He asserts that this current effort is “indicative of the same mindset that … led this country to dissolve into a civil war.”  Not so: it is indicative of precisely the opposite. No one is storming the castle walls.  Instead, gun owners are using every lawful means available to us to ensure that our voices are heard in support of the Constitution.

He asserts that his motivation to call negative attention to the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is the ongoing gun violence in his district. I can assure the Delegate that none of the criminals that engage in inner city gang- and drug-related violence have joined with law-abiding gun owners at any of the hearings to date. On the other hand, I’m sure those criminals are cheering the Delegate and the Democrats on, because criminals prefer unarmed victims, and that is exactly what the currently proposed legislation will create. 

The Washington Post was no better.  Its editorial called us “mischief-makers” in the title.  What mischief?  What law did we violate?  The first sentence was even worse, opening with “Vigilantism.”  I should not be surprised that the Editorial Board doesn’t know any better, because unlike me, its members have probably not completed many hours of NRA gun safety classes.  Although I shouldn’t have to make this clear, I will: ALL of those classes begin with gun safety practices and a review of the relevant laws, criminal and civil, that relate to defensive gun usage.

Vigilantism is an offensive posture that lies outside the scope of anything to which I’ve been exposed. Their mischaracterization of us shows that the confiscation crowd simply refuses to have any meaningful debate on the merits of the facts as they exist—it is all guilt by association to a lie. 

The editorial asserts that the legislation would promote public safety even though the Governor conceded that none of the measures would have stopped any of the horrific atrocities in Virginia—neither Virginia Tech nor Virginia Beach.  The editorial concludes that “the only cases in which gun confiscation could take place would be . . . red flag” actions.  It completely and conveniently overlooks that confiscations could be based on harmless possession of newly banned firearms and accessories currently in common use for lawful purposes. If I am required to give up possession of my personal property then it is effectively confiscated, albeit without the zero dark thirty no-knock raid. My regrets for being ungrateful about that.

Lastly, Blue Virginia, a voice of Virginia Democrats, implored us to wait “to see what gets passed before manning the ramparts.”  I would concede that would make their work easier if we stayed silent a little longer, but we’ve learned from our mistake of November 5th.  They point out the obvious:  “. . . citizens do not have the right or the power to determine on their own say-so whether or not a law is constitutional.”  We agree, which is why lawful gun owners are asking those who took oaths of office to uphold the Constitution—elected officials, including sheriffs—to uphold their oath of office, no more and no less.

No guns rights group has yet to take the position that we should explicitly disobey the law. On the contrary, even though New Jersey has an abundance of unconstitutional infringements which are being lawfully challenged at all levels of the judicial system. Yet Second Amendment advocate and New Jersey range proprietor Anthony Colandro admonishes his weekly Gun for Hire Podcast listeners to follow all the laws to the letter while fighting them.

It would be helpful if those covering the sanctuary hearings actually attended one and listened to the citizens who speak up. What is clear to me is that these people are passionate about the United States and passionate about it remaining a Constitutional Republic.  Gun ownership and safe, lawful use of guns is a means to that end. 

There has not been one scintilla of advocacy of “mischief-making” or “vigilantism.”  No one spoke about wanting to take up arms against the government. Instead, the focus has been on respectful but firm dialogue that is entirely consistent with the Second Amendment, and the Heller and McDonald decisions.  Gun owners are showing up en masse to these hearings because we want to see our country preserved, not taken apart.

It is long past time that the confiscation crowd acknowledges that the history, text, and tradition of the Second Amendment precludes the type of government infringements on our inalienable rights contemplated by their bills.  It is also time for them to acknowledge the plentiful data that supports the wisdom of that oral and written tradition: criminals and tyrants prefer unarmed victims. 

Virginia gun owners have merely asked to be left alone; we are not calling for revolution.  Our commitment to lawful civic engagement should make that obvious to anyone who cares to listen to us.



–Dennis Petrocelli, MD is a clinical and forensic psychiatrist who has practiced for nearly 20 years in Virginia. He took up shooting in 2019 for mind-body training and self-defense, and is joining the fight for Virginians’ gun rights.

All DRGO articles by Dennis Petrocelli, MD