BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — At the Bristol, Virginia City Council special called meeting Monday night, the only resolution on the agenda was in support of the constitutional rights of all citizens.
Leaders in dozens of Virginia counties have passed Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions due to concerns about potential legislation coming up in the 2020 General Assembly.
It’s because Democratic Governor Ralph Northam has the backing of a Democratic-majority General Assembly, and new gun legislation, including red flags laws, could be passed.
“Hopefully this, along with everything else people are doing throughout the Commonwealth, will give them pause as they consider their legislation realizing that there’s a lot of people out there that don’t want to see what’s being proposed,” said Bristol, Virginia Vice Mayor Bill Hartley.
Bristol, Virginia Mayor Neal Osborne said the council wants to take a more open approach to protect all rights in the United States and Virginia constitutions.
“Obviously we want to protect everybody’s Second Amendment rights, obviously because that’s included in the Constitution, so I would hope that it would bring out those people but also it should bring out anyone who is concerned about their freedom of speech, freedom of religion or anything like that, so hopefully it covers everything that needs to be covered,” Osborne said.
The intent is to send a message to lawmakers that Bristol’s city council respects the rights of its citizens and wants to protect those rights.
Gary Widener owns Defensive Fire Arms Instruction in Bristol. He and others in attendance at Monday night’s meeting say this isn’t enough.
“Their resolution was weak. It’s something, it’s better than nothing, much better than nothing, but it’s just not what I’d like to have seen,” Widener said. “Passing those laws, it doesn’t mean anything to me or my friends.”
“It’s a roundabout way of saying ‘We’re not going to do anything but this is what the people want,'” Widener added.
Some on the council agree. “I would like to see this wording a little stronger and have some meat behind it… if it had a whole lot of meat to it it wouldn’t have no chance of getting passed,” said councilman Kevin Wingard.
Osborne told News Channel 11 this resolution is not legally binding, adding that even a resolution specifically mentioning gun rights would only be symbolic.
“Most of these resolutions that you’ve seen come out of other counties and cities and towns carry no real legal authority because you can’t violate state law per the Code of Virginia,” Osborne said.
Southwest Virginia counties that have adopted Second Amendment Sanctuary status include Lee, Dickenson, Wythe, Washington, Russell, Tazewell, Norton, and Scott.
Buchanan County adopted an emergency ordinance but will vote on a full measure at its January 6 meeting at Grundy High School.
Ultimately, the measure passed unanimously Monday night.