RUSTBURG, Va. – A growing number of Virginia counties are becoming “Second Amendment sanctuaries,” in opposition to gun law restrictions, and Campbell County was among the first to blaze the trail.
“If they can get one piece of your right, they’ll take another," said Campbell County supervisor Charlie Watts. "I just feel like [gun rights are] something they shouldn’t go after.”
Watts introduced a resolution to make Campbell County a Second Amendment sanctuary two days after Democrats won control of both the state House and Senate on Election Day. The Campbell County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the measure.
“Our county will not give any public funds or taxpayer dollars to enforce any of those laws that come down and infringe on those rights," Watts explained. “All it states is that as a county, this is where we stand.”
Although Carroll County was the first municipality in Virginia to pass a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution, Campbell County was the first to do so after Election Day. Appomattox, Charlotte, Patrick, and Pittsylvania counties have all passed similar resolutions since then, with Franklin and Pulaski counties considering the measure.
Watts says more than 40 Virginia counties have called Campbell County for advice on how to craft a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution.
“Most counties around here are just frustrated that they know things are going to happen and that things are coming,” Watts said. “That’s one of the reasons they feel they need to do something.”
Although the Second Amendment sanctuary movement is picking up steam, University of Virginia Professor Rich Schragger, who specializes in constitutional law, says any measure will be limited because state law takes precedence over local laws in Virginia.
“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.”
Watts says the popularity of Second Amendment sanctuaries is not just about the gun laws, but about sending a message to state lawmakers in Richmond from often-overlooked corners of the Commonwealth.
“I think it will set a stance," Watts said. "I think it will show them that, ‘Hey, we are strong.’”