The Second Amendment sanctuary trend has hit Lynchburg.
An online petition calling for Lynchburg to become a Second Amendment sanctuary garnered more than 400 votes two days after being posted and reached more than 550 votes by Friday. Counties near the city and throughout the state are openly opposing gun control legislation by declaring themselves sanctuaries.
The petition posted on Change.org on Nov. 24 addressed Lynchburg City Council members, asking the city to join nearby communities and adopt statements that oppose gun control legislation.
Appomattox, Campbell and Pittsylvania counties, among others in Virginia, already have passed similar resolutions. Amherst, Bedford, Nelson and Franklin counties will be voting on resolutions in December.
Lynchburg resident Curt Diemer said he created the petition out of a desire to keep and exercise his rights.
“I was concerned about my ability to protect my family,” Diemer said.
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 shared 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.
Diemer said he is working to get on the agenda for the Dec. 10 council meeting and share his concerns during the public hearing.
Ward IV Councilman Turner Perrow said he’s against state HB 4021 and SB 16 both of which would increase controls on “assault firearms” in Virginia.
“Those two bills are the ones that really strip rights away from gun owners,” Perrow said. “I’m absolutely against that.”
He said he’s planning to bring a resolution to council Dec. 10 to amend Lynchburg’s legislative agenda, which was finalized and adopted at the Oct. 22 meeting, to include language that opposes gun control legislation.
Claiming Second Amendment sanctuary status does not hold any legal standing, and Perrow said if the city council were to vote on becoming a sanctuary city, he thinks the motion would fail.
“I agree with the citizens; I share their concerns,” he said, adding it’s more efficient for Lynchburg to oppose the state legislation by amending its legislative agenda. “I absolutely saw this coming.”
Though he has not seen or read through the petition Diemer started, At-large Councilman Beau Wright said he feels council should not use its time on a long discussion about gun control.
“The time we devote to issues of state and national policy … we’re not spending time talking about issues in Lynchburg,” Wright said. “If folks have concerns, they should reach out to their state representatives.”
Wright said his job as a city council member is to work on neighborhood and community issues and doesn’t think it’s necessary for the city to become a Second Amendment sanctuary.
“We all know this is a polarizing issue,” Wright said. “I really don’t think that this would be a wise thing to have in Lynchburg.”
Ward III Councilman Jeff Helgeson said he opposes statewide gun control legislation and he calls Diemer’s petition a “good thing.”
Helgeson said his main concern regarding Northam’s proposed agenda is the extra work it will create for Lynchburg police officers.
The police department is overworked and understaffed, Helgeson said, and doesn’t have enough resources “to go after law-abiding citizens.”
The Lynchburg Police Department declined to comment on the topic.
Olivia Johnson covers the city of Lynchburg for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5537.