‘Make Our Voices Heard’

ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY residents raise their hands, along with a few signs and an American flag, when asked if they support the Second Amendment sanctuary resolution before the Board of Supervisors Monday night at the Rockbridge County High School auditorium. (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photo)

ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY residents raise their hands, along with a few signs and an American flag, when asked if they support the Second Amendment sanctuary resolution before the Board of Supervisors Monday night at the Rockbridge County High School auditorium. (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photo)

SPEAKING in opposition to the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution Monday night inside the Rockbridge County High School auditorium is attorney Joe Watkins, who said he “understands people want to be heard,” but the resolution “does nothing. It has no legal import.” (all photos by Stephanie Mikels Blevins)

SPEAKING in opposition to the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution Monday night inside the Rockbridge County High School auditorium is attorney Joe Watkins, who said he “understands people want to be heard,” but the resolution “does nothing. It has no legal import.” (all photos by Stephanie Mikels Blevins)

URGING support for the resolution is Torben Pedersen.

URGING support for the resolution is Torben Pedersen.

TENNI SENN speaks in opposition to the resolution.

TENNI SENN speaks in opposition to the resolution.

MORGAN McCOWN, a veteran, said drugs kill far more people than guns.

MORGAN McCOWN, a veteran, said drugs kill far more people than guns.

ROBERT LUCAS told the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors that lawmakers “poked a bear’s den and woke it up.”

ROBERT LUCAS told the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors that lawmakers “poked a bear’s den and woke it up.”

THE ISSUE “is pretty simple,” said John Metzger. “The Second Amendment is a God-given right that can’t be taken away.”

THE ISSUE “is pretty simple,” said John Metzger. “The Second Amendment is a God-given right that can’t be taken away.”

ABOVE, Sebby Volpe said guns “are the great equalizer. It ensures people are the equal of the government.”

ABOVE, Sebby Volpe said guns “are the great equalizer. It ensures people are the equal of the government.”

AT RIGHT, talking with citizens prior to the hearing is Del. Ronnie Campbell (left), Republican of the 24th District.

AT RIGHT, talking with citizens prior to the hearing is Del. Ronnie Campbell (left), Republican of the 24th District.

Supervisors OK 2 nd Amendment Resolution

Rockbridge County on Monday declared itself to be a sanctuary for Second Amendment rights.

Following a three-hour hearing in which most of the speakers demanded the declaration, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to adopt a resolution proclaiming Rockbridge County to be a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County” that “fully affirms its support of the rights ensured and protected by the constitutions of the United States and Virginia, including the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arm … ”

In what was surely one of the largest gatherings ever at a Rockbridge area governmental meeting, more than 1,200 people poured into Rockbridge County High School to take part in a guns right movement sweeping primarily the rural swaths of the state. Once the RCHS auditorium was filled to capacity with all 750 seats taken, the overflow crowd was directed to the gymnasium, where several hundred more took seats in the bleachers to hear the speakers via an audio feed.

Todd Pegg said proposed gun control legislation that is to be considered in the upcoming session of the General Assembly is an example of “government overreach” that would upset the “balance of power between the government and governed.” He alluded to “pro-liberty protestors in Hong Kong” who are using “bows and arrows” because they don’t have the right to bear arms.

“Disarming citizens is one way tyrannical governments suppress their people,” stated Christian Larlee.

“Strengthen our resolve to make our voices heard,” said C.J. Hall. “The Second Amendment holds all of our other rights together.”

“Support the Second Amendment,” said Charles Kraut. “Defenseless people are more easily enslaved.”

“I came to this country because it’s the land of opportunity, or at least it was,” said Torben Pedersen, a retired police officer who emigrated to the U.S. from Denmark 50 years ago. “The constitution of the U.S. is the most powerful document in the world.” He said he supports the resolution and enforcement of existing laws.

Taking away gun rights, said Robert Deacon, “makes good people vulnerable to evil people.”

“I support the resolution, though I don’t think it goes far enough,” said Brandon Dorsey. He said he’d like to see the 10 Commandments put back into governmental buildings.

“If we allow the Second Amendment to go down, the rest are going to fall like dominoes,” said Linwood Chit-tum.

Del. Ronnie Campbell, who represents the Rock-bridge area in the House of Delegates, vowed to continue supporting Second Amendment rights. He warned, however, that “we can’t circumvent state code.” He urged those present to “stick with me” and support the reelection of President Donald Trump next year and other Republicans in the 2021 state elections.

Jennifer Brown, Sixth District Republican chair, speaking for Congressman Ben Cline, who wasn’t present, said Cline would continue to “stand strong in defense of Second Amendment Rights. The congressman, she said, “is thrilled to see the groundswell of support to keep and bear arms.”

Not everyone in attendance supported sanctuary designation, though opponents were clearly in the minority. Eight of the 62 speakers who addressed the supervisors voiced their opposition.

“What makes America great is that everyone has equal rights before the law,” said Tinni Senn, a county resident of 20 years who’s originally from India. “I fear a resolution that puts one set of rights over others will upset the balance.”

The resolution, said John Pancake, “sends the message that people can pick and choose which laws they want to follow.”

Bridget Kelley-Dearing argued that statistics prove it’s extremely rare for “good guys with guns” to stop those with bad intentions. Reasonable gun restrictions would be beneficial, she insisted. “I find it sad that we can’t come to agreement on gun safety reforms.”

Following the conclusion of the citizens’ comments, Supervisor David Hinty, who was in Florida but participating in the meeting remotely, made a motion to accept the Second Amendment resolution that he and others on the Board had prepared. The motion was seconded by John Higgins.

The resolution, drafted since their Nov. 25 meeting in which hundreds of citizens first addressed the Board on the issue, notes that the Board “fully supports the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Rockbridge County, as granted by the United States and Virginia constitutions; … ”

The Board, continues the resolution, “is concerned that legislation introduced for the 2020 Virginia General Assembly, if passed, could infringe upon rights guaranteed by the [U.S. and Virginia constitutions]. … although the Board acknowledges that it has no legal authority to adopt local legislation which supersedes any law enacted by the United States Congress or Virginia General Assembly, has not authority over the independent execution of the responsibilities of constitutional officers involved in law enforcement with a sworn duty to uphold and enforce the laws adopted by the legislative bodies, and that any determination regarding the constitutionality of legislation lies with the judicial branch of government, the Board wishes to clearly and unequivocally express its support of the right of its citizens to keep and bear arms.”

Continuing, the Board “urges the Virginia General Assembly, the United States Congress, and other agencies of state and federal governments to vigilantly preserve and protect those rights by rejecting any provision, law or regulation that may infringe, have the tendency to infringe, or place any additional burdens on the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms; … ”

Initiating discussion on the motion on the floor, Dan Lyons commented, “While I support the Second Amendment, I support the rule of law. The only problem I have with the resolution is the word, ‘sanctuary.’ … Sanctuary implies we’re not going to enforce laws. I’m not going to put our deputies in that position. … If we want to protect our rights, do it right. Get in your car and go to Richmond [to talk directly with lawmakers].”

Lyons said he found the resolution “not well written. All it does is tell you what you’re allowed to do.” He noted that Virginia is a Dillon Rule state that restricts localities to only those powers specifically granted by the state.

Despite Lyons’ objections, the motion passed 4-1, over his dissent. The vote was greeted with cheers and applause from the audience.