One southwestern Virginia county is fiercely pushing back against proposed restrictions on gun rights in the state.
Earlier this month, the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors passed two resolutions aimed at opposing potential restrictions on gun possession and ownership.
Both resolutions were unanimously passed on Dec. 3 to loud cheers from a standing room-only crowd at the Board of Supervisors meeting, according to the Bristol Herald Courier.
“Our position is that Article I, Section 13, of the Constitution of Virginia reserves the right to ‘order’ militia to the localities,” County Administrator Eric Young, who helped draft the ordinances, told the Herald Courier. “Therefore, counties, not the state, determine what types of arms may be carried in their territory and by whom. So, we are ‘ordering’ the militia by making sure everyone can own a weapon.”
Southern District Supervisor Mike Hymes said people in Tazewell County “feel the need to have a gun to protect themselves and their property.”
“We live in an area where the nearest deputy might be 45 minutes away,” Hymes told the Herald Courier.
Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt told NBC affiliate WWVA the militia resolution “gives us some teeth to be able to act and do something if a law comes out dealing with firearms that we see is illegal.”
According to Tazewell County Board of Supervisors Chairman Travis Hackman, the ordinance is aimed at sending a message to the state’s legislators in Richmond.
Virginia Democrats, who in November seized control of both houses of the state’s legislature for the first time in more than two decades, made gun control laws a focus of their campaigns.
Democrats’ electoral triumph has sparked fears of increased restrictions on firearms possession, which the state’s pro-gun advocates say infringe on their Second Amendment rights.
Last week, Democrats announced they were amending a pending ban on “assault weapons” in the face of political pressure.
An early draft of the bill would have made it a felony to possess any firearm defined as an “assault weapon.” Gun rights groups were particularly concerned by the lack of an exception for those who already possess such weapons.
The ban is backed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, whose spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, told the Virginia Mercury that “the governor’s assault weapons ban will include a grandfather clause for individuals who already own assault weapons, with the requirement they register their weapons before the end of a designated grace period.”
The move to confiscate guns faced immense grassroots opposition in the state, which has seen a majority of its counties declare themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries.”
A portion of the funds allocated by the militia resolution will go to programs such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and weapons training courses, according to WJHL.