STRASBURG — The Town Council approved a resolution Tuesday in support of the Second Amendment.
The symbolic gesture was approved by all council members present, though two members and the mayor raised concerns about the use of the word “sanctuary,” which was not included in the resolution.
Councilwomen Emily Reynolds and Barbara Plitt were absent.
In its decision, Strasburg joined dozens of other localities around Virginia — mostly county governments — in taking a stand against proposed gun control legislation from Richmond that many see as a threat to the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which concerns the right to bear arms.
“This resolution is primarily symbolic,” said Councilman John Massoud. “But it sends an important shot across the bow of those who would divide us in Richmond.”
About 65 area residents attended the meeting. As with a Dec. 2 Town Council work session, everyone who spoke on the matter during a citizen’s comment session spoke in favor of a resolution.
Recognizing that a majority of Virginia’s 95 counties, including Shenandoah County, have adopted similar resolutions, town resident Greg Flynn said the atmosphere surrounding gun rights has reached “a boiling point” in the anger that gun owners and others feel about the potential for infringement of their constitutional rights.
Several proposed Senate bills concerning gun control will go before Virginia’s General Assembly in January, including Senate Bill 16, which seeks to define assault weapons and proposes limits on the type of guns and size of magazines that people can buy, sell or own; and Senate Bill 64, which would amend Virginia’s code concerning paramilitary activity.
This week, Gov. Ralph Northam suggested the addition of a grandfather clause on Senate Bill 16, so people who own firearms outlawed in the bills could retain items they purchased before any ban takes effect.
Flynn said that isn’t good enough since the governor’s suggestion also requires that gun owners register such firearms by the end of a grace period.
“Registration leads to confiscation,” he said.
He referenced a German registration of all citizen-owned firearms in 1933.
“In 1938, that list was given to the Nazis, and we know how that turned out,” he said. All the firearms were confiscated, Flynn said, and by the end of World War II, millions of Jews and others had been exterminated.
He also referenced Virginian history, when, in 1775, the British attempted to confiscate firearms from American colonists.
Such attempts to stifle people’s rights “created an air of turmoil,” Flynn said, which he added also contributed to the Civil War.
Addressing red flag laws, Winchester resident Mark Stickley, who has ties to Strasburg, called it “a guilty until proven innocent law.”
“Taking guns from criminals is common sense,” he said, “but taking guns from law-abiding citizens is criminal.”
Recalling his experience purchasing firearms at a gun show, he said the dealer required that he submit to two separate background checks to buy two guns.
“So the ‘gun show loophole’ [legislation] is basically trying to eliminate private sales,” he said. “Not sure how that is going to be managed.”
Concerning legislation for universal background checks, he said “it’s basically just Orwellian speak for ‘gun registration.’”
Councilman Ken Cherrix called the grandfather clause a “smokescreen.”
“They had that all in their plan, because they knew this was going to happen,” he said. “They put the grandfather clause in, and then we would be quiet. We can’t let that happen, either.”
Massoud said legislators are trying to divide Americans even more on opposite sides of a complex issue, and that they “know what they’re doing. And quite honestly what they’re trying to do is dangerous.”
Though no one spoke in opposition to adopting the resolution, Councilwoman Kim Bishop read off some questions she received from residents who fear the impact of a resolution on tourism and community conversations on gun violence.
“On the contrary,” she said, “every gun owner I know would love to have a conversation on gun violence.”
Discussion before the vote included concerns by Mayor Richard Orndorff Jr., Vice Mayor Scott Terndrup and council member Jocelyn Vena over the word “sanctuary.”
“To me, sanctuary is holy ground,” Terndrup said, calling it a personal issue but an objection nonetheless. “I just object to the word “sanctuary” for a secular issue.”
Though “sanctuary” had already been removed from the resolution at town attorney Nathan Miller’s suggestion, Terndrup also asked that the resolution be amended to remove the phrase “slippery slope,” which he also found to be an inaccurate portrayal of the issue of restrictions of gun rights.
“I have no problem with this resolution,” he said. However, he pointed out that there are limits to Americans’ freedoms under the First Amendment, which protects free speech, “and there are limits to the Second Amendment as well.”
“You have the right to demand a gun,” he said.
But what about people who sell guns irresponsibly or for profit, he wondered. How can a community go about preventing guns from falling into the wrong hands, he asked.
Inviting residents to return for the next Town Council meeting, he suggested they bring their concerns on gun violence and other issues before the council to discuss possible solutions.
“Come back in January,” he said. “We can’t do it for the whole country, but we can do it in Strasburg.”
The resolution reads:
WHEREAS, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” and
WHEREAS, Article 1, Section 1, Section 13, of the Constitution of Virginia provides “that a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state: therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power,” and
WHEREAS, certain legislation introduced in the 2019 session of the Virginia General Assembly, and certain legislation introduced in the current session of the United States Congress could have the effect of infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution; and
WHEREAS, the current Governor of Virginia has stated that he intends to endorse and pass into law legislation that we believe may be construed as unconstitutional as it pertains to the rights enumerated in the U.S. and Virginia Constitution; and
WHEREAS, the Town Council of the Town of Strasburg, Virginia is concerned about the passage of any bill containing language which could be interpreted as infringing the rights of the citizens of the Town of Strasburg to keep and bear Arms; and
WHEREAS, the Town Council of the Town of Strasburg wishes to express its deep commitment to the rights of all citizens of the Town of Strasburg to keep and bear Arms; and
WHEREAS, the Town Council of the Town of Strasburg wishes to express opposition to any law that would unconstitutionally restrict the rights under the Second Amendment of the citizens of the Town of Strasburg to bear arms; and
WHEREAS, the Town Council of the Town of Strasburg wish [sic] to express its intent to support Second Amendment rights to oppose, within the limits of the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia, any efforts to unconstitutionally restrict such rights, and to use such legal means as [sic] its disposal to protect the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms.
Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Town Council of the Town of Strasburg, Virginia:
That the Town Council hereby expresses its intent to support the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of the Town of Strasburg, Virginia and its intent that public funds of the Town not be used to restrict Second Amendment rights or to aid in the unnecessary and unconstitutional restrictions of the rights under the Second Amendment of the citizens of the Town of Strasburg, Virginia, to bear arms; and
That the Town Council hereby declares its opposition to unconstitutional restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.
That the Town Council hereby declares the Town of Strasburg, Virginia supports the “Second Amendment.”
The resolution concludes by saying it was adopted by the council on Dec. 10.