City officials: Martinsville “supports” Second Amendment sanctuary movement, passes related resolution

The city did not declare itself a sanctuary, but passed supporting language that mirrors other localities that did

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Martinsville City Council passed a resolution related to the Second Amendment sanctuary movement on Tuesday night.

The resolution says in part, that while nothing in the resolution is intended to “declare any intent or effectuate any act,” the Council expresses its commitment by “any and all legal means” to “respect, preserve and enforce the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States...”

The resolution does not, however, explicitly declare Martinsville a Second Amendment sanctuary, at least using those exact words, like other localities have done. The city attorney based the resolution of other localities’ resolutions and included a lot of the same boilerplate language.

At first, the resolution did not mention the word sanctuary anywhere in it and that was just one of the unusual parts of Tuesday’s meeting. A council member also chose to flat out not pick a side by abstaining from her vote.

Martinsville City Council kept tight order during their meeting, unlike some other localities that have allowed a more ruckus atmosphere. The room was at capacity with an overflow crowd standing in the hallway outside. Tony Lawson is a former sales manger for a gun shop in Collinsville and was one of the handful of people who spoke for the resolution.

“I’ve never given anyone a reason as to why I shouldn’t be able to own them, I mean you can’t penalize honest people, you can’t legislate away evil or insanity, you’re never going to be able to legislate that away," Lawson said.

There were considerably fewer people there against the resolution, made clear when each side applauded for someone who spoke their opinion.

Ellen Jessee said she comes from a family of gun owners, but also does not support diverging from any new gun control laws.

“Law abiding gun owners by pushing for gun sanctuaries, are lobby for the rights of non-law abiding people and criminals and abusers and people with some types of mental problems to have the right to have a gun," Jessee said.

The city’s attorney modeled Martinsville’s resolution after Culpepper’s, which many in the time since it was approved criticized as too weak. The first version did not include the word sanctuary which Councilman Danny Turner called into question. Turner wanted that to change, adding “Martinsville supports the second amendment sanctuary movement" to the resolution.

Turner said that was to give the resolution a clear stance. But he then turned around and voted against the resolution.

“My intent was for it to fail so I wound up on the short end of the stick but we’ll go with it, but I still maintain that we don’t have the authority to buck the state and we must do what the state says," Turner said.

Councilwoman Jennifer Bowles said she’s a gun owner but also sees the other side of it, too. And in another unusual move, she then chose to not vote at all on the matter, abstaining from the vote.

“No I don’t support it because there is no legislation that we’re voting against, I do support our second amendment right to bear guns and I also support having a conversation about common sense gun control legislation," Bowles said.

Gun supporters were pleased with the decision. There was a large police presence at the meeting, including one deputy with a long gun across his shoulder. But council was pleased that no one was rude or interrupted other speakers, which has happened at other meetings.

To see a full list of localities across Virginia that have adopted a resolution related to Second Amendment sanctuary status or discussed the issue, click here.

About the Authors: