Proposed firearms legislation in Virginia causing counties to declare themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries”

Kevin Trapani, Student Journalist

In Virginia, over 90% of the state’s counties have declared themselves to be “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” as of today.

This is in response to proposed legislation that is being backed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, which is going to be voted on by Virginia’s now Democrat-controlled General Assembly later in the year. 

Many of these “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” have stated that they will not use their resources to enforce the new legislation, the core of which being: SB16, SB18, and SB64.

An AR-15 rifle that would be considered an “assault firearm”

SB16 would, among other things, make the sale, importation, possession, etc. of “assault firearms” in Virginia a class 6 felony, excluding law enforcement.

The definition of an “assault firearm” in this context is any semi-automatic firearm that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition and has any one of a number of banned characteristics, or any characteristic that is similar to one that is banned.

These characteristics include: a pistol grip, telescoping stock, forward grip, muzzle break, and flash suppressor (these characteristics change slightly depending on whether the firearm is a shotgun, rifle, or pistol).  This portion of SB16 echoes parts of other state’s “assault weapon” bans. 

A 30 round magazine for the AR-15 rifle.

Gov. Northam’s spokeswoman has stated that included in this bill will be a grandfather clause that will allow individuals who own “assault firearms” to keep them, so long as they register them within a certain time period.

SB18 ups the age requirement to purchase all firearms to 21 from the federal age requirement of 18 for “long guns,” and 21 for pistols. It would also require a background check for any firearm transfer/sale. This includes private sale of firearms (ex: a person selling a firearm to their friend), which had previously been exempt.

And SB64 would punish those who assemble publicly to drill, march, or parade with a class 5 felony; if they do so with a firearm and it is deemed to be intimidating.

Many local law enforcement agencies in Virginia have voiced their concerns over these proposed bills. One such an opponent of these bills is Sheriff Scott Jenkins of Culpeper County, who has vowed to deputize thousands of law abiding Virginia gun owners if the laws are passed, which could give some immunity to the legislation being passed, notably SB16.

The idea of using the Virginia National Guard to enforce the law has already been brought up by some of the bill’s proponents, such as Democratic Virginia Rep. Donald  who stated, “I’m not the governor, but the governor may have to nationalize the National Guard to enforce the law,” stressing that it is the Governor’s decision to make and that it is unknown just how much these “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” are willing to do.