Gloucester leaders reaffirm commitment to Second Amendment sanctuary status

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In late 2019, cities and counties across the state passed resolutions declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries — Gloucester County was one of them.

Fearing its first resolution wasn’t enough, the Gloucester County Board of Supervisors voted last week to pass a resolution that the county would not enforce any laws passed by the federal government deemed unconstitutional.

“I’m hoping we can at least send a message to Washington — at least little Gloucester County who is a mosquito on an elephant’s rear end does not want to enforce or does not want to recognize any federal laws that infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Board of Supervisors member Phillip N. Bazzani.

The first resolution passed unanimously after hundreds of citizens converged to offer vocal support. It said the county would not enforce any gun-control laws deemed unconstitutional that came out of the state legislature after Democrats took control of the General Assembly and governor’s office.

The latest resolution — dubbed the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” — passed June 1 with less fanfare but had support from six of the seven men on the board.

“When each of us gets elected, we swear on a Bible to uphold the Constitution of the United States. No matter which amendment it is, that’s our job,” said Robert “JJ” Orth, the dissenting vote. “We all uphold every amendment from the first to the last.”

Orth voted in support of the first resolution but said he believes the latest resolution was unnecessary.

In April, the Biden-Harris administration released a plan for addressing gun violence, which the administration has labeled a public health epidemic. The plan includes a call for Congress to pass a national “red flag” law and incentivize states to pass “red flag” laws of their own. The administration also wants to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

President Joe Biden’s nominated David Chipman — a senior policy adviser for anti-gun violence advocacy group Giffords — to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Chipman appeared before a Senate panel a few weeks ago and said he would support a ban on the AR-15, according to a USA Today report.

“Law-abiding citizens should have the right to bear arms to protect themselves in defense against either a tyrannical government — which the Constitution says is allowed — or to protect their home and property,” Bazzani said.

While the county’s resolution leaves it to the Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of the laws, Bazzani says he believes “red flag” laws and the ban on the AR-15 are unconstitutional.

“I am a 1,000% supporter of the Second Amendment,” Bazzani said. “If I want to own a bazooka or ballistic missile, it is my right to own it because the Constitution says I can own it.”

Last year, a man tried to challenge Virginia’s red flag law — a measure that allows police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of guns from someone believed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Attorney General Mark Herring argued that the measure did not violate constitutional rights, and Judge Glen E. Conrad dismissed the case in the U.S. District Court for the Western District, according to a report from NBC12.

Bazzani said board members received calls and messages of support for the resolution and that residents showed their support on social media, but people were discouraged from coming out in droves during the pandemic and because of confidence the resolution would pass.

“This resolution was a combination of our idea as a board and citizens saying we’ve got to protect ourselves against the Biden administration,” Bazzani said.

The board modified the initial draft of the resolution to specify that it would apply under all future federal administrations unless it is changed by a future board.

Gloucester County Attorney Edwin Wilmot says the resolution is within the power and authority of the board.

“I’ve carefully vetted it and determined it’s constitutional and lawful,” Wilmot said. “Each of you is sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Virginia, so it goes without saying — although this (resolution) says it — that you would not advocate for the enforcement of any unconstitutional law.”

The resolution says Gloucester will not use any authority provided to it through the Code of Virginia to “regulate or prohibit the otherwise legal purchase, possession, or transfer of firearms or ammunition.”

The resolution also says that the county will not cause any confiscation of firearms or accessories and will not initiate tracking or registration of legally owned guns.

“This expresses your current intent not to take advantage or use state-enabling legislation to further regulate guns,” Wilmot said.

He emphasized that it would be up to the Supreme Court — not Gloucester — to determine whether a law was unconstitutional.

“We just want to go on record that we will not recognize any unconstitutional laws that infringe on the rights of Americans to own and bear arms,” Bazzani said.

Jessica Nolte, 757-912-1675, jnolte@dailypress.com