CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – A growing number of counties in Central and Southwest Virginia are labeling themselves as “Second Amendment sanctuaries” ahead of the new legislative session, but what affect will that have on gun laws?
Appomattox, Carroll, Charlotte, Patrick, and Pittsylvania counties have already declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries, which will oppose gun control measures; Franklin and Pulaski counties are considering making the same declaration.
However, University of Virginia Professor Rich Schragger, who specializes in constitutional law, said some gun control measures are constitutional, which means the Second Amendment sanctuaries would likely not be able to block them.
“What they can do as a practical matter is quite limited," Schragger said. "There is some room for local police departments and local officers to use their discretion with the laws, and that was the same thing with sanctuary cities in terms of immigration policy. Mostly, declaring yourself a Second Amendment sanctuary is more of a symbolic statement.”
Schragger said the wave of new Second Amendment sanctuaries also signifies more rural communities’ efforts to have their concerns heard at the State Capitol.
“It’s a form of political resistance," Schragger said. "It’s similar to when urban communities have made statements in the other direction for gun control. I’m not surprised; It’s a form of political action.”
Schragger said those concerns became amplified after Democrats flipped both chambers of the Virginia legislature in the election.
“As politics swings in one direction or the other, there are folks that are going to be unhappy,” Schragger said. “There has been a push for rigorous gun control laws by the Democrats, so now people in communities where large majorities disagree with that will show symbolically or politically that they disagree with that.”