WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. (WJHL)- Washington County, Virginia’s Board of Supervisors is the latest local government to consider becoming a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.”
A handful of Virginia counties have already passed resolutions to honor and defend gun rights. Lee County did so earlier this week.
The resolutions are not legally binding but show a county’s commitment to not use public funds to “restrict Second Amendment rights.” They’re also a response to state and national efforts to increase gun control.
Following a deadly shooting in Virginia Beach, Gov. Ralph Northam called a special session for lawmakers to consider a package of proposals. The General Assembly adjourned without taking action but that’s likely to change in 2020.
That’s because Democrats hold majorities in both the House and the Senate for the first time more than two decades.
Sheriff-elect Blake Andis said if a red flag law passes, the Washington County Sheriff’s Department will not enforce it. “I think it’s a clear violation of the Second Amendment, requiring us to go out, basically do an illegal seizure and search of their property based on their non-criminal activity.”
Red flag laws allow guns to be temporarily confiscated from individuals deemed to pose an immediate and present danger to themselves or others. Several states and D.C. have already passed versions of the law.
Under a proposed bill in Virginia, a Commonwealth’s Attorney or a law enforcement officer could apply to a judge or magistrate for an “emergency substantial risk order.” If approved, a warrant would be issued to remove the firearm for up to two weeks. After that, the original complainant could file a motion for a hearing to extend the order for no longer than 180 days.
“I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that there is no due process,” said Vicki Powers, a volunteer with Mom’s Demand Action, an organization that advocates for “sensible gun control laws.”
Powers said red flag laws are critical to prevent mass shootings and suicides.
“Sixty percent of the firearm deaths in the United States are suicide and so it’s a very big problem if you cant intervene when somebody is in crisis,” she said.
Andis said there are already processes in place for law enforcement to intervene in a mental health crisis without seizing a weapon, such as emergency custody orders and temporary detaining orders.
News Channel 11 asked him if he would issue an “emergency substantial risk order” to confiscate a firearm from a suspected school shooter who hasn’t made an explicit threat.
“Not without further investigation,” he said.