A packed city hall chamber echoed with calls against statewide gun control legislation in Lynchburg on Tuesday night.

City council did not declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary at its meeting, and council did not approve an attempt to amend the already-approved General Assembly legislative agenda to add language stating the City of Lynchburg does not support current proposed statewide gun control.

At-large council member Beau Wright, Vice Mayor MaryJane Dolan, Mayor Treney Tweedy and council member Sterling Wilder voted against the resolution. Ward IV council member Turner Perrow and Ward III council member Jeff Helgeson brought the resolution forward and voted in favor alongside At-large council member Randy Nelson.

At least 200 people attended the 7:30 meeting and 11 attendees spoke during the public comment portion, all opposing gun control legislation. By 6:40 p.m., most chamber seats were filled — some attendees said they thought the meeting started at 7 p.m.

Both Perrow and Helgeson spoke with attendees for about 30 minutes before the meeting. Perrow and Helgeson were outspoken throughout the meeting in opposition of gun control legislation.

Wright said Lynchburg should not be discussing state and national issues on a local level.

“We have to enforce the laws, that’s our job. We can disagree with those laws, and that’s why we have elections,” he said. “The resolution from us … wouldn’t carry legal weight.”

The push for Second Amendment sanctuaries stems from concerns following the Nov. 5 statewide election, which flipped Virginia’s legislative majority from Republican to Democrat.

Months prior, in July, Gov. Ralph Northam proposed gun control laws, which 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 banning assault weapons and accessories like high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers.

Lynchburg is the latest locality to face the Second Amendment sanctuary trend. In Lynchburg, the effort largely was started by community members at the end of November after resident Curt Diemer posted an online petition that has garnered more 1,300 signatures to date.

Bedford County declared itself a Second Amendment sanctuary Monday night, and the Nelson County Board of Supervisors approved the sanctuary status earlier Tuesday afternoon. Appomattox, Pittsylvania, Carroll and Campbell counties passed similar resolutions in the past few months.

Isaiah Knight, who gave public comment on behalf of Virginia Families Political Action Committee, said he supports gun rights so he can protect his family if someone breaks into his home.

“Lynchburg is a desert island in a sea of liberty right now,” Knight said. “Cowardice is contagious, but so is courage.”

Katie Webb Cyphert, chair of the Lynchburg Democratic Committee, also gave public comment and said she did not think Lynchburg should pass a resolution or become a sanctuary.

“We will not solve these issues in this room tonight,” Webb Cyphert said. “These are complex issues, and people across the commonwealth are asking our legislators to thread the needle carefully.”

Lynchburg-resident Roger Fons — who also spoke during the public hearing — said he feels making the city a sanctuary is the only way citizens will be able to keep their guns.

“I think this is a gun state, even though they pulled all this crap on us,” Fons said in reference to legislation coming from Richmond.

Chad Barrett, Lynchburg resident and gun owner, said he attended the council meeting to “send a message” to council and to state legislators.

“We like the Second Amendment,” Barrett said. “That’s why there’s a lot of us here.”

The city will hold a public hearing Jan. 14 to discuss gun control matters further.

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Olivia Johnson covers the city of Lynchburg for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5537.

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