More than 350 people wearing “Guns Save Lives” badges came to Tuesday’s Franklin County Board of Supervisors meeting to demand the county declare itself a “Second Amendment sanctuary.”
Supervisors reassured the packed meeting room that they were all on the same side.
“Your presence speaks volumes,” said board chairman Cline Brubaker, Blackwater District supervisor. No one spoke against the proposal.
The board directed staff to draw up a resolution in consultation with the sheriff, commonwealth’s attorney and county attorney.
“We want to make sure that what we do is correct,” Blue Ridge Supervisor Tim Tatum said. “We want to make sure that we show solidarity with our other jurisdictions around us.”
The decision positions Franklin County to follow in the footsteps of Appomattox County and Campbell County, which have already passed resolutions declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries . Pittsylvania County was expected to pass a similar resolution Tuesday night.
The gun rights activism group Virginia Citizens Defense League has been a driving force behind the push for these declarations statewide. William Dyer, 37, of Henry, a league member, spoke at the meeting, urging supervisors to adopt the measure. A message circulating on Facebook about Dyer’s presentation read, “A good turnout would be helpful!”
“Our rights are under attack,” Dyer said. “I felt like it was my duty as a citizen of the county to push this along. We aren’t looking at this as the last thing we’re doing, but it’s the first thing we’re doing.”
Tuesday’s turnout was a response to gun control legislation and rhetoric in the wake of the takeover of the General Assembly by Democrats on Nov. 5. “We understand they’re going to limit access to guns,” said Charles Bates, 74, who lives near Boones Mill.
Counties in several other states have adopted such designations.
“It’s a big movement,” Bates said, referring to a Florida county that passed a similar sanctuary resolution two days after this month’s election.
In Virginia, the resolutions are largely symbolic, intended to send a message to Richmond lawmakers.
“I want to make sure that all of you don’t get some sense of false security that when we pass this that this gives you some type of protection from any laws that the state may pass,” Tatum said.
Democrats have already filed several gun control bills ahead of the January legislative session. Proposals include universal background checks, civil penalties for not reporting lost or stolen firearms to police, reinstating the state’s lapsed one-handgun-a-month law, and giving localities the ability to prohibit the carrying of firearms in a public space during an event that would require a permit.
Predating the election, Carroll County declared itself a Second Amendment sanctuary during the summer, shortly after the May 31 mass shooting at Virginia Beach that prompted Gov. Ralph Northam to call for a special session to take up the issue of gun violence.
Brubaker noted that the wording of resolutions passed by other Virginia counties are inconsistent.
“We need some conformity between counties that want to do this,” he said. “We want to get this right.” He expects the resolution will pass. “It wasn’t controversial here.”
Also Tuesday, Franklin County Schools Superintendent Mark Church sought approval to use $218,198 in surplus health insurance reserve funds to grant a Thanksgiving “holiday” from paying the employee portion of insurance premiums.
Supervisors unanimously approved the measure but directed Church to determine what it would cost to grant a similar break to retired school employees who still use the schools insurance, as retirees were not included in the original proposal.
Staff writer Amy Friedenberger contributed to this report.