During one of his final meetings as a county supervisor, Supervisors Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) on Tuesday led an unsuccessful effort to insert a statement about gun rights into the county’s agenda for the state
Higgins’ motion would have added a statement to Loudoun’s state legislative agenda that the Board of Supervisors is “opposed to any legislation that has or may be introduced in the Virginia General Assembly that could have the effect of unlawfully infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 13 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” That language similar to that adopted by some other counties in response to new gun control measures that have been proposed in advance of the next session of a newly Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
Higgin’s proposal did not go as far as some counties have recently, declaring themselves “sanctuary counties” that will not use local resources to enforce the new state laws—a similar tactic to localities that do not use local law enforcement resources to assist federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement work.
“We would like our delegation to be mindful of the constitutions of the United States and Virginia and not consider laws that would violate them,” Higgins said. “And I think that since all of us swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, that this wouldn’t be a problem.”
But most on the board criticized the resolution, arguing it said nothing new and that it violated the board’s practice of not taking stances on issues outside the purview of local government.
“As far as I am concerned, this is nothing more than an adult, political temper tantrum,” Randall said. “This is beating the floor, and holding your breath, and rolling around because you didn’t like what happened on November 5.”
Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) said she had been responding to constituent emails that supervisors in the lame duck period between the election and the new board taking office would be unlikely to make any change on the issue.
“It is sad to say, but elections do have consequences,” Volpe said.
Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) said he’d had to “oppose some really uncomfortable things that have been brought, that I’ve always said are more politically-motivated, not Loudoun-specific motions.”
“I don’t think it belongs in our legislative agenda, and you can’t be hypocritical and vote against what the Democrats have brought this whole term and tried to put in our legislative package—whether it’s on gun violence, on equal rights, on LGBTQ rights—and then go ahead and propose conservative language on social issues and say ‘well, we should vote for it, because I agree with it this time,’” Meyer said. “This is total hypocrisy.”
And, he pointed out, “we are not the Supreme Court. The Board of Supervisors of Loudoun County isn’t going to decide what is or isn’t against the Second Amendment.”
Some supervisors pointed out that even if the motion were to pass, a newly Democrat-controlled Board of Supervisors will meet before the next General Assembly session convenes—a board that Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) promised would take that stance right back out of the legislative agenda.
Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) called the debate “wasting our time.”
“If you support the Second Amendment, then you should be lobbying state representatives—delegates and senators—you should be joining the NRA or donating to the NRA or joining one of the other pro-Second Amendment, pro-gun organizations, because they’re going to be the ones down hopefully with you all down in Richmond lobbying against this thing.”
Randall said, “I am embarrassed for you all at this point.”
“Miss [Kristen C.] Umstattd (D-Leesburg), earlier in the term, brought a resolution to recognize LGBTQ month, and you not only voted that down, but in voting that down you stripped the chair’s power to alone decide what resolutions come because you said it’s too partisan,” Randall said. “I lost power of the board on a LGBTQ resolution. You all have told us over and over again not to bring issues that the General Assembly is going to vote on. This is no different, and every single one of you know it.”
Randall was referring to a debate in 2016, when Umstattd proposed a resolution recognizing June as LGBT Pride Month. Instead, supervisors substituted a new “Love Loudoun” month crafted by Meyer—the first and last time that month was celebrated in Loudoun—and changed the board’s rules of order to give both the chairman and vice chairman power to veto resolutions before they come to the full board.
Love Loudoun Month, coming after a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a mass shooting inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, said Loudoun “stands in solidarity with the victims of the Orlando, Florida terrorist attack,” and that “Loudoun County’s diversity is so rich we could honor a different group of extraordinary citizens every day.”
Tuesday’s debate also took an unusual turn when Meyer proposed an amendment to oppose infringing on any part of the Bill of Rights, which Higgins opposed. When the Board narrowly voted to approve that amendment, which would have added a pro-Bill of Rights statement into the county’s legislative agenda, Meyer changed his vote to no to cause his own motion to fail. That sent debate back to Higgins’s Second Amendment motion.
“Frankly, I don’t really care if the motion passes on the Bill of Rights of rights,” Meyer had explained before the vote. “It’s really to prove a point that says, if you want to make a motion that say I support seashells balloons, and people vote against it, that means they oppose seashell and balloons, right? The ceremonial stuff has to stop. We have serious business to conduct in the county.”
Ultimately Higgins’ motion failed 2-4-2-1, with Higgins and Volpe in favor; Randall, Meyer, Saines and Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) opposed; Buffington and Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) abstaining; and Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) absent.