By Carol Vaughn
The Chincoteague Town Council on Monday unanimously approved a resolution naming the town a Second Amendment sanctuary, with a crowd of around 80 gun rights supporters looking on.
The town joins 116 Virginia localities that have passed similar resolutions since the November election, according to the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun rights.
That number includes Exmore and Accomack and Northampton counties — although both counties stopped short of using the word “sanctuary” in their resolutions.
Democrats won majorities in both the House of Delegates and the Senate in the election, increasing the likelihood of restrictive gun laws being passed in the 2020 General Assembly session. Bills include SB16, which would expand the definition of an assault firearm, among other measures.
Former Chincoteague Police Chief Eddie Lewis, now on town council, made the motion to approve a resolution including the word “sanctuary.”
It was seconded by Councilman Gene Wayne Taylor, who read aloud the resolution — which declares Chincoteague a Second Amendment sanctuary and says, in part, that the town council “expresses its intent that public funds of the town are not to be used to restrict the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Chincoteague, or to aid federal or state agencies in the restriction of such rights.”
Additionally, the resolution declares the council’s intent “to oppose any infringement on the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms, using such legal means as may be expedient, including, without limitation, court action.”
Mayor J. Arthur Leonard said he got his first shotgun for a Christmas present at age 12.
“But with that shotgun came responsibility. … Unfortunately in today’s political climate, we are going down a bad road. … We are going down to our least common denominator; we are starting to be in gangs — you are either a ‘red’ or a ‘blue.’ It’s not red or blue — It’s red, white, and blue,” he said, adding, “…We as Americans need to get to the bottom of the issue. The bottom of the issue is not the guns; it’s the people behind the guns.”
Leonard went on to say, “I want the folks in Richmond to know that we do not support anything that tries to prevent us from our Second Amendment rights. Whether that’s what Accomack did or what we are proposing tonight, I just want somebody to send Richmond a message that, ‘Hey, we out here on the fringes of your state do not like what you are doing.’”
Three people spoke about the resolution during a public comment period prior to the vote. Speakers included Accomack County Supervisor Billy Joe Tarr, who said of the Board of Supervisors, “We are fighting with you. We want this to stop. We want to be united in it and to try to get these bills removed.”
Still, Tarr said the county’s resolution did not include the word “sanctuary,” which he said was left out “because it means absolutely nothing.”
“We do not have the authority to give anybody the right to not follow the laws,” he said.
Chincoteague residents Stewart Baker and Harold Cherrix called for the more strongly worded resolution.
“History has proven that when a government begins to take guns from citizens, those citizens do not fare well,” Cherrix said, adding, “…Everyone knows that SB16 and SB 64, currently before the state legislators, are the direct result of a Bloomberg-bought-and-paid-for Virginia legislature, with the intent to introduce a gun ban and confiscation of firearms.”
SB64 would make unlawful paramilitary activity punishable as a Class 5 felony.
Baker also urged the council to designate the town a Second Amendment sanctuary.
“I’m making this request for many reasons,” he said — including to ensure that the right to bear arms is not infringed, “to continue our Chincoteague and Eastern Shore way of life as a rich waterfowl and wildlife hunting area,” to continue to be able to teach young people gun safety, and to be able to protect the community if the needs arises.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Mark Herring said the resolutions “appear to be nothing more than symbolic since no new gun laws have passed or even been considered yet.”
“It’s not clear what second amendment sanctuary is, what its proponents are hoping to accomplish, or what authority they think they have to preemptively opt out of gun safety laws, but if the Virginia Citizens Defense League is circulating it you can bet it’s a bad idea,” said Charlotte P. L. Gomer, press secretary for the Office of the Attorney General, in an email to the Post.
Ellis Resigns; Bott Appointed
Vice Mayor Ben Ellis resigned his position on the town council in December because he is moving out of town. At the Jan. 6 meeting, the council voted 3-2 to appoint Chris Bott to fill the seat until town elections are held in May. Ray Rosenburger was the other person nominated for the seat.
Mayor J. Arthur Leonard appointed Councilwoman Denise Bowden to serve as vice mayor.