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Law & the Courts

Virginia’s Second Amendment Sanctuaries: An Update

Last week I wrote about the spread of Virginia’s “Second Amendment sanctuaries” — counties, towns, and cities that vow not to enforce state gun laws they deem unconstitutional, in the wake of the Democrats’ taking control of the state government. There are a few new developments worth noting.

For starters, the sanctuaries have spread dramatically. They’re up to 93 jurisdictions — covering roughly 40 percent of the population, by my quick spreadsheet tally. That’s huge, though the biggest victory, in Prince William County, is likely to be overturned when the county board flips to the Democrats, and some of these places have passed vague resolutions in support of the Constitution rather than the more aggressive language proposed by the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

As I noted in my previous piece, these resolutions have limited legal effect; local governments are basically subordinate to state governments. But defiance like this can put political pressure on moderate Democrats — and, failing that, can force the state government to either (A) take drastic action to stamp out resistance or (B) give up and let these places refuse to enforce new gun laws, possibly ramping up state-police activity there as a replacement.

On the politics, it’s worth noting that the state Democrats have already caved on confiscating “assault weapons,” modifying a bill so that it would still ban sales going forward but would require current owners to register their guns rather than turning them in.

It’s also worth comparing this map of sanctuaries:

. . . with this one of Virginia senate districts. (Click here to see the interactive version via the Virginia Public Access Project; I chose the senate because it’s much closer politically than the house.)

If an area is blue in both maps, it’s both a sanctuary and represented by a Democrat, suggesting a senator who might experience this movement as pressure from home. Such places do exist, though often the sanctuary jurisdictions make up only a minority of the Democratic district’s population. (See, e.g., districts 18, 21, and 25.) However, the senate is split 21–19, so it doesn’t take a lot of side-switching to stop a bill.

Finally, on how the Democrats will respond in the event they pass new gun laws and many local law-enforcement agencies refuse to enforce them, the governor has threatened “consequences,” and other Virginia Democrats have floated everything from prosecutions of local authorities, to cutting off state funds, to National Guard deployment.

Fun times.

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