The “Second Amendment sanctuary” resolution movement is advancing in many areas of Virginia, accompanied by throngs of passionate and energetic supporters.

As of Nov. 30, 24 counties have adopted it, and it is on the agenda of many more local governments.

Such a resolution was on the agenda of the Nov. 26th Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors meeting. It drew the largest turnout of citizens, estimated to be as many as 1,000, for any board meeting in recent memory.

The public comment period lasted over 2 1/2 hours and the vast majority of speakers referred to threats to their Second Amendment rights, such as the confiscation of their legally owned firearms and declaring gun owners to be criminals.

Tragically, those views are energized by inaccurate and misleading information, made inflammatory through social media communications by organizations like the Virginia Civil Defense League and the political faction, which lost its General Assembly majority in the Nov. 5 election.

Made inaudible and invisible because of the heat and noise of this frenzy is the fact that America is facing a mass shootings crisis. Over the past three decades, there have been more mass shootings in America than in any other country in the world.

In the U.S., four or more people have been killed in a mass shooting every 47 days, on average, since June 17, 2015, (according to an Aug. 5 Washington Post article, drawing on multiple sources).

It is beyond horrible that the U.S. has the most mass shootings in the world. It should be unacceptable even if we ranked 20th, or even 30th, on that list.

Further, 2017 data show that Americans own more guns per capita than in any other nation in the world: 120.5 guns per 100 persons; second was Yemen 52.8 per 100 and tied for third were Montenegro and Serbia at 39.1

Apparently lost to the memory and/or conscience of opponents of any reasonable gun control measures in the commonwealth is the April 16, 2007, mass shooting at Virginia Tech, in which an undergraduate student killed 32 and wounded 17 others – the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

Also lost in this Second Amendment sanctuary frenzy is the fact that the former General Assembly majority failed to act, in its 2019 session, on Gov. Northam’s common sense gun control proposals, punting the issue to a special session. The governor took responsible action soon after America’s mass shooting epidemic came home to the commonwealth in an incident in Virginia in May that claimed 12 victims.

The then-majority further abandoned its duty of governance by aborting the special session a mere 90 minutes after it convened, with no proposals being considered.

It’s past time we turned away from fear and frenzy and toward fact and effective action.

The key provisions of the newly elected General Assembly majority’s proposed gun control measures include: banning assault-style rifles and high capacity magazines; increasing the age from 15 to 18 for the purchase of a rifle or shotgun; increased background checks; and “red flag” laws, now enacted in 17 states, that allow courts and law enforcement intervention regarding individuals clearly deemed a gun violence threat to themselves, their family, associates or the community.

“Seizure of legally owned guns,” “criminalization of gun owners,” and the other lightning rods in the Second Amendment sanctuary storm that were so often employed at the Nov. 26 supervisors meeting, are nowhere to be found in these proposals.

These proposed sanctuary resolutions are also premature as the General Assembly won’t convene until January 2020.

The General Assembly’s legislative process is the proper venue for thoroughly analyzing and reshaping the proposed gun control measures.

Thereafter, the state and federal courts would be the constitutionally provided venues for resolving disputes about any resulting laws.

The Constitution of Virginia makes no provision for local governments to have a determinative role in such matters.

There is a greater basis for rational fear in not enacting common sense gun control measures, than in the fear of imaginary loss of constitutional rights. How many more innocent lives must be lost?

The only sanctuaries available to those killed in mass shootings are coffins, so let’s get beyond fears of fantasy threats to our civil liberties, and get on with rational, practical legislative actions that can help change the circumstances and dynamics that have resulted in so many thousands of deaths in mass shootings.

Virginia’s local governments should reject Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions because they are misleading, premature, inflammatory and unnecessary.


Dennis Atwood has been a resident of Maurertown since 1978. After retiring from a 40-year federal civil service career, and 25 years of concurrent Naval Reserve service, he has been active in numerous local government and community volunteer organizations.