At noon today, the Virginia General Assembly received yet another local stance on gun control legislation passing through its chambers—this one from the Lovettsville Town Council.
Dozens of Second Amendment supporters packed into the tiny town office Thursday night, many overflowing into the parking lot, to see the Town Council vote 4-1-1 to adopt a proclamation presented by Councilman David Steadman declaring that the council supports and defends the U.S. and Virginia constitutions through opposition to legislation that “infringes upon the right to keep and bear arms.” Vice Mayor Jim McIntyre voted against adoption and Councilman Mike Dunlap abstained from the vote.
During this year’s Virginia General Assembly session, several bills have been passed by either the House of Delegates or Senate that would intensify gun control measures, prompting nearly every Virginia county and dozens of localities to adopt similar proclamations that, in some cases, have labelled them as Second Amendment “sanctuaries.”
Mayor Nate Fontaine emphasized that Lovettsville’s proclamation does not make the town a sanctuary town, but that it simply is a statement for the General Assembly. Per McIntyre’s request, letters from more than 30 residents were attached to the proclamation, which was sent toSen. John Bell (D-13) and Del. Dave. LaRock (R-33). Fountain said the town had received about19 letters opposing the proclamation and about 10 that are in favor of it, with more than came in just before the meeting he had yet to count.
The proclamation is based on the belief thatsome bills would “criminalize the lawful exercise of the right to keep and bear arms” and that many citizens are “gravely concerned about the proposed infringements upon their constitutional rights.”
“The Town Council supports measures that would advance firearm safety without infringing upon the right to keep and bear arms [and]wishes to express its strong commitment to all rights of citizens of the Town of Lovettsville, Loudoun County, Commonwealth of Virginia to legally keep and bear arms [and] strongly opposes the passage of any law that would unconstitutionally restrict any right of our citizens,” it reads.
“We must stand with our core beliefs that our rights should not be infringed upon,” Steadman said.
Prior to the vote, the councilmen discussed the proclamation for about 45 minutes, some scrutinizing and even criticizing its intent.
In place of Steadman’s proclamation, Dunlap introduced a separate one that incorporated supportive language for all citizens’ rights, not just the Second Amendment. That motion failed to win any support from his colleagues.
Councilman Buchanan Smith said Dunlap’s proposed replacement proclamation watered Steadman’s down. He said Dunlap’s statement that residents are concerned that the gun legislation would affect not only their constitutional rights but also “common family sporting activities” showed Dunlap wasn’t “getting the point.”
Steadman said Dunlap’s replacement “dulls the point” and called Dunlap’s scrutinizing of the grammar in his proclamation “disingenuous.”
Fontaine said it was disingenuous for Dunlap to introduce an entirely new proclamation that councilmen and residents had not seen before that night.
In general, McIntyre said debating and voting on Steadman’s proclamation was not what the councilmen were elected to do. He said local government should be nonpartisan and that debating and voting on the matter would create division on the dais and drive a wedge into the community.
“It’s neighbor against neighbor,” he said. “It brings about stereotypes.”
McIntyre said he couldn’t support Steadman’s proclamation because it cited three U.S. Supreme Court decisions in a limited way and was not supported by a long list of facts. He said that because it focuses on one amendment and not all of them, it violates the very document it claims to defend—the U.S. Constitution.
Before the Town Council had a chance to discuss the proclamation, 23 area residents—at least one carrying his firearm openly—expressed their support for the proclamation. No residents approached the podium to express opposition to it.
Common were concerns that state and federal legislators are attempting to control citizens by slowly taking their freedoms away, and that the gun legislation making its way through the General Assembly would turn them into felons overnight.
Russell Mullen argued that point by pulling out his son’s plastic airsoft rifle foregrip and waving it in front of the council, arguing that if certain legislation passes in both chambers, owning that accessory would be a felony.
Craig Shaver and Peyah Fowler argued that Virginia legislators are all about controlling residents.
“Richmond wants to turn me into a criminal,” Shaver said. “There’s a tyranny in Richmond that’s coming for us again.”
Fowler said she lives on large rural property and rarely sees a Sheriff’s Office deputy patrolling that area of the county—which is why, she argued, it’s necessary for her and others to arm themselves for protection.
“There is no question that this is about control,” she said. “This is about stripping us from every direction to protect ourselves. This is not about making it safer for schools.”
Another argument was that the Second Amendment was written purely to allow citizens a chance to defend themselves against a tyrannical federal government.
“The founding fathers had not just finished a deer hunt [when they wrote the Second Amendment], they had just finished liberating a nation,” said Chris Anders.
While some opponents to the proclamation have said that taking a stance on new gun legislation would violate potential new state laws, Anders said that some states have already nullified federal law by legalizing marijuana.
Other supporters pointed out that localities with stricter gun laws experience more crime than those with more relaxed gun laws.
Joy Pritz mentioned that the City of Kennesaw, GA has an ordinance establishing that “every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm,”which is why the town of 32,000 residents, she said, has seen just one homicide in the past three years.
Although proclamation supporters were rallied to openly carry their weapons and attend the meeting by Warner Workman, the owner of the Minuteman Arms gun shop in town, Workman did not address the council Thursday night.
Those opposed to the proclamation sent their concerns to council members via email, urging them to reconsider the topic and remove it from the agenda; some said they were too concerned for their safety to attend the meeting.
Jason Reeps asserted that the vote would politicize and further divide the council.
“Should you bring this proclamation, you will have taken the Town Council and turned it from an apolitical body for town management to a political football in one of our country’s most hotly contested political arguments,” he wrote.
Neelam Ahmed wrote that the atmosphere being cultivated in town “is alarming and disheartening” and that council members should consider whether it wants “lock down drills and fear of being targeted in a supposed safe environment” to become normal for their children.
“Shame on you and those supporting this nonsense,” he wrote. “Take your issues up at the state level and find meaningful work in your position.”
Following the adoption of the proclamation, the dozens of supporters clapped, cheered and thanked the Town Council.
“I think it’s clear … that we’re sending a message, that’s all this is,” Steadman said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to use a democratic process. This is a beautiful thing, this is what we’re here for.”