MOUNT JACKSON — Most of the people who spoke at Town Council’s public hearing on the Second Amendment sanctuary resolution do not live in the corporate limits, a resident complained Tuesday.
But Mayor Donald “Donnie” Pifer defended his decision to allow all audience members who signed up to speak at the hearing to voice their opinions on the resolution.
Nearly 100 people attended the special meeting and 15 people spoke at the hearing, all in support of the resolution. Town Council members voted 3-2 to adopt the resolution.
But fewer than half of the 15 people who spoke at the hearing live in Mount Jackson, Charles “Charles” Fultz said during the public comment period at Town Council’s meeting Tuesday. Fultz is the husband of Councilwoman Judy Fultz who, along with Councilman Roger Judy, voted against adopting the resolution.
“We had great oratorio from a gentleman from Bryce Mountain and as far as I’m concerned I didn’t know that we had annexed Bryce Mountain yet,” Fultz said. “I didn’t know that (police) Chief (Jeffrey) Sterner could go to Bryce Mountain and confiscate (the speaker’s) guns.
“I also was concerned about a gentleman from Strasburg who laid out and told this board what their duties were,” Fultz added. “He shoulda been telling the board in Strasburg, not this board.”
The mayor said he counted five speakers who do not live in the town limits. Fultz maintained his concern.
“They have no reason to have influence in this town,” Fultz said. “We had a fairly large group here last night but what was the purpose of them trying to intimidate this group that we see here?”
Most of the speakers do not live in Mount Jackson and could not “vote to take you out of office,” Fultz told the council, referring to some comments made by speakers at the hearing.
But the police chief could charge any of the speakers, regardless of residency, with a firearms violation if that person committed the offense in the town limits, Pifer explained. Therefore, out-of-town residents are affected by state firearms regulations, Pifer went on to say.
“I don’t care where they’re from, if those gun laws are in effect, then they’re affected when they get into the town of Mount Jackson,” Pifer said. “If they’re affected by what happened last night, then they should have input in it.”
More people turned out for the town’s meetings on a proposed “mega-site” industrial development on property outside Mount Jackson than at the special meeting Monday, Pifer recalled.
“I can understand the mega-site,” Fultz said. “But I can’t understand why a fellow from Strasburg who was only here for the purpose of being political ... and this fella was allowed to speak.”
Councilwoman Whitney Miller, who voted in favor of the motion to adopt the resolution, said she doesn’t think members could “pick and choose” who can speak.
“It’s their First Amendment right to have a say,” Miller said.
The problem isn’t a First Amendment matter, Fultz said. The Strasburg resident, Fultz said, shouldn’t tell council members what to do.
Miller responded: “He’s not telling me what to do, so if he wants to come and voice his opinion, I mean, I’m certainly going to listen.”
Councilwoman Bonnie C. Good, who also voted in favor of the resolution, said she understood Fultz’s concern.
“But it is a tricky situation to try to weed out folks,” Good said. “We’d have to get their addresses and their phone numbers and we’d have to advertise that it was a public hearing only for the citizens of Mount Jackson to try to control that issue.”
The mayor requests at the beginning of each meeting that anyone who plans to speak either during a public hearing or the public comment period to write their name and phone number on a sign-in sheet before the meeting. The sign-in sheet also asks the speaker to indicate if he or she is a resident of the town of Shenandoah County. Town residents are also county residents but not all county residents live in the town limits. At the Monday night hearing, not all speakers indicated if they live in the town or county. The mayor also allows anyone else who has not signed up on the sheet to speak.