MOUNT JACKSON – A split Town Council adopted a resolution Monday to join the growing number of Second Amendment “sanctuaries” across the country.
More than 100 people attended the Town Council’s special meeting and public hearing on the proposed resolution. All who spoke at the hearing urged council members to adopt the resolution. Supporters expressed fear that the Virginia General Assembly could pass legislation that infringes on their Second Amendment rights and would limit their ability to protect themselves and their families. About a half dozen officers with the town police department assisted with security at the meeting.
The resolution declares Mount Jackson a “Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 13 of the Constitution of Virginia Sanctuary.” The resolution mirrors one adopted in December by the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors.
Council members Whitney Miller, Rod Shepherd and Bonnie C. Good voted in favor of the motion to adopt the resolution. Judy Fultz and Roger Judy voted against the motion. Dennis L. Andrick did not attend the meeting but provided a written statement in which he expressed support for the resolution he brought to the council. Mayor Donald “Donnie” Pifer did not vote because there was no tie, but told the audience he supported the resolution.
Judy explained his reasons for not supporting the resolution, which led to some outbursts from the audience. First, Judy told audience members that the proposed legislation that sparked the sanctuary movement has since been withdrawn and replaced by another proposal. Chief Jeffrey Sterner provided information on the new proposal to council members. The new proposed article deals specifically with assault weapons, Judy said.
“I’ve heard a lot this evening from some very fine speakers talking about some very dramatic issues and I think we need to understand or my understanding is that this article is not saying you cannot have a handgun,” Judy said. “It does not say you cannot have a concealed weapon. It does not say you cannot have an open-carry (firearm).”
People in the back started to talk out loudly over Judy, who told them he needed to speak. Judy went on to say that the proposed article would prohibit assault weapons.
“I’ve talked to several people about this and I have yet to be convinced that an assault weapon is necessary to be in the public domain,” Judy said, as some audience members began to laugh. “I understand it’s important for the military. I understand it’s important for our law enforcement personnel.
“I do not understand that it’s important for a citizen to have an assault weapon,” Judy went on to say. “We’ve seen what assault weapons can do and I think we all recognize and I’ve said several times and we’ve heard it in the media that what we need to address is the mental issues of these people.”
At least two people interjected by asking Judy what he considered an assault weapon, which sparked a back-and-forth debate between the councilman and people in the audience. Then Judy said he didn’t see the necessity for one person to have a firearm that shoots multiple rounds of ammunition.
Judy expressed concern about language in the resolution he said takes away Town Council’s ability to evaluate any law that addresses gun safety.
Good spoke about her reasons for supporting the resolution. She pointed out that the resolution states that the judicial system ultimately would resolve any constitutionality questions with gun-related legislation.
“And I’m sure everything that’s put forward will get before a judicial system,” Good said. “There’s so much concern from folks about this and I understand ...”
Good went on to recall her own family’s experience with gun-related violence — a brother shot and killed, one sister witnessing the shooting and the other holding their teen sibling as he died.
“The family has gotten past it, but we’ve never gotten over it,” Good said. “I still have my own weapons.
“I have nothing against us having guns and I really believe it’s still an important part of our lifestyle in our country, from our history, that we’re able to protect ourselves and our families and our community and our country,” Good added.
Council members voted, and the audience cheered when the motion to adopt the resolution passed. Some people in the audience chanted “vote them out,” when the meeting closed, referring to the council members who did not support the resolution.