AMHERST — Amherst County is one of the latest localities in Virginia to declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary, joining about two dozen others to adopt the measure following outcries from gun-rights advocates.
The Amherst County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday declaring the Second Amendment sanctuary, joining Campbell and Appomattox counties among Lynchburg-area localities to adopt the measure. Bedford and Nelson counties’ governing bodies are considering action on the matter and a petition has circulated among Lynchburg residents to bring it to city council.
A few hundred people crowded the Amherst board’s Nov. 19 meeting supporting the move as a show of support for protecting gun rights, and several dozen attended Tuesday’s meeting. A mix of views on gun control and the right to carry firearms came up during a public-comment period Tuesday.
“We are living in precarious times right now and the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said David Cash, an Amherst resident and former sheriff’s deputy of 14 years.
Cash and others spoke about the importance of keeping the Second Amendment intact.
“We’re not to touch it,” Cash said. “The Founding Fathers knew that.”
County resident Jeff Wade said he believes in the right to concealed carry and he was doing so at the meeting. He said he was prepared to stop something bad from happening to a woman seated next to him who voiced an opposing viewpoint during the meeting if she was under threat.
“We’ve got to have each others’ back, not just family,” Wade said.
Gloria Witt, president of the Amherst chapter of the NAACP, said the group opposes the Second Amendment sanctuary declaration because the group supports common-sense gun control including universal background checks. She said mass shootings prevalent across the country impose on the freedoms and safety of residents and she believes the gun rights crowd doesn’t speak for the majority of citizens.
Witt said many people she’s spoken to in Amherst feel some type of gun control is needed.
“We believe rational gun control is necessary,” Witt said.
Witt and Bill Peters, a county resident, urged the board to conduct a survey to get a better reading on the subject from thousands more residents before taking action on the matter. “Right now I think the voices of a few are carrying it for the majority,” Witt said.
Peters said until such a survey is done the board is only guessing at what the majority of the community wants. He paused and cried at one point while recalling the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, seven years ago this month.
His wife, Roberta Peters, also said she feels stronger gun control laws are needed.
“That’s all I’m asking right now, common sense background checks,” she said. “It’s the least we can do.”
County resident Mike Eames was among those who spoke on preserving rights of gun owners.
“This takes away my ability to protect my family,” Eames said of any law infringing on Second Amendment rights.
Madison Heights resident Don Wood said localities across the country with strict gun control laws have not been successful in deterring violence.
“I do not see harsher control laws ever working,” Wood said.
Nancy Foster, a county resident, said she doesn’t understand the desire among so many for the Second Amendment sanctuary and argued common sense gun control measures do not impose on the Constitution.
“Tighter gun control legislation is definitely needed in this country,” Foster said.
Madison Heights resident Josh Makarski said his home was broken into while his wife was there alone. The incident shook him and he realized then his life and loved ones’ safety depended on carrying firearms, he said.
The issue goes much deeper than just owning firearms, he said. “My life, and my family’s life, depends on it.”
Courtney Moss, a Madison Heights resident and registered nurse, said she doesn’t think living in a state of fear is wise and she sees more victims of different kinds of violence than from guns.
“I see more deaths at the hands of opioids and heroin use,” Moss said.
Though non-binding legally, county officials said they hope the sanctuary declaration sends a strong message to the Virginia General Assembly as it considers upcoming legislation regarding guns.
“The General Assembly does have a tendency to listen to these,” County Attorney Michael Lockaby said. “My suspicion is if we speak loudly, they will listen.”
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.