James City County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution that reaffirms the county’s commitment to the constitution.
The move was short of declaring the county as a ‘2nd Amendment’ sanctuary, a term commonly used to describe actions already taken by other localities. The agenda item — as clarified by Supervisor John McGlennon — listed the resolution as a “reaffirmation,” not a declaration.
“The action we took tonight was not to declare James City County a sanctuary county,” said Supervisor John McGlennon. “It was to simply restate what our oath of office requires us to do to reflect the fact that we are here to make sure laws are enforced and that if there are disagreements on the constitutionality of laws. We are not the basis on which those issues will be resolved, they will go to the judiciary.”
The Virginia Citizens Defense League, a nonprofit that aims to protect the right to bear arms, is one of the organizations pushing this movement across the state and defines a 2nd Amendment sanctuary locality as “any locality that says it will not enforce any unconstitutional (federal or state) gun laws,” according to the organizations website.
Supervisor Sue Sadler proposed a discussion and vote on the resolution during the Nov. 26 meeting of the James City County Board of Supervisors.
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“I would like to thank the board for working so well together that we can come up with a message that we can send to Richmond that we do support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the commonwealth,” Sadler said. “And we are sending a message saying that we do support the 2nd Amendment, which is part of that constitution and that we expect our rights not to be infringed upon.”
The topic has come to light after Gov. Ralph Northam reintroduced eight bills earlier in November that would create stricter gun regulations. As a result, 79 residents spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting Tuesday night, both for and against the resolution.
“There’s a lot of talk of common sense in this discussion,” said resident Adam Garrison, during the discussion. “I believe we all want the same outcome which is safer communities but the appeal to common season has become an attempt to insulate against complexity by relying on cognitive biases that involve consensus and the laundering of opinion into policy.”
Out of the 79 speakers, 52 spoke in favor of passing the resolution with speakers as young as 17 years old. Many of those who were in favor of the resolution cited constitutional rights as the main reason as well as sending a political message to the General Assembly in Richmond.
“If we allow ourselves to drift away the constitutional foundation that has held our society together through our history, our worst fears will be realized,” said resident Rick Monahan.
However, there were also many speakers who opposed the resolution, including multiple students at William & Mary and one speaker as young as 7 years old.
Joanna Di Sicipio, a William & Mary student, said she was a senior when the mass shooting occurred in Parkland, Florida in 2018. Going to school the next day, she said she could recall students screaming just at a door shutting. Now, with a younger sister in high school she wants to see change enacted that will create safer public spaces.
“My kids come home from school terrified from lock-down drills,” said Ariel BenYishay, a James City County resident and William & Mary professor.
Despite the resolution being approved, board members reiterated to the community that the Board of Supervisors does not have the agency to determine laws unconstitutional and suggested residents reach out to state representatives.
“Many citizens want us to vow that we will not enforce measures that they think are unconstitutional and I can understand that passion. I understand that very clearly,” said Supervisor Jim Icenhour. “The problem is…we are constrained, we have to abide by the law that says the courts make that determination…I urge you to take your efforts is to Richmond.”
“Several speakers spoke to us taking away something,” said Supervisor Ruth Larson. “It is not within our purview so I would urge you, whichever side of this issue you’re on, to take it up to Richmond.”
York County’s Board of Supervisors is also considering a similar resolution that would create the county a “Constitutional County.” Board members will discuss the resolution during the meeting at 6 p.m. on Dec. 17 at York Hall in Yorktown.