Over the past month, more than 100 Virginia counties, cities, and locales have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries in response to Democrats in the legislature who want to enact draconian gun control laws. From Gov. Ralph Northam, who would love to go right ahead with a full-on program of gun confiscation to the Democrats in the state government who are looking to ban “assault weapons,” they have made their agenda plainly obvious. In response, conservative Virginians and their local governments are making it equally clear that they don’t intend to act upon these laws.
The stage is set for a vicious fight between the state government and its counties, and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said this week that sanctuary districts had better get their act together. In a written opinion, he deemed the idea of a Second Amendment sanctuary to be without legal weight.
“When the General Assembly passes new gun safety laws they will be enforced, and they will be followed,” Herring said. “These resolutions have no legal force, and they’re just part of an effort by the gun lobby to stoke fear.”
Well, it’s an interesting debate, isn’t it? If what Herring says is true – and we do not doubt that it is – then it doesn’t just invalidate “Second Amendment sanctuaries” but sanctuaries for illegal immigrants as well. Granted, many of the cities that have adopted those policies happen to be in blue states where state-level Democrats have no interest in pushing back, but not all of them are. If courts find that the Virginia state government has the final say when it comes to enforcing the law – which they must, by any sober reading of our system of laws – then the same would apply to other types of sanctuary cities.
After all, these Second Amendment sanctuary counties aren’t trying to overturn Virginia state law. They are simply saying that they won’t spend the resources to prioritize its enforcement. When President Obama was in office, this option was referred to as a the genteel-sounding “prosecutorial discretion,” was it not? Liberals seemed to have no problem with it then. As usual, these things only become problematic when conservatives try it.
At the end of the day, this comes down to a political question. Do Herring and Northam and the Democrats in the legislature really want to start going after county sheriffs and police? What’s that going to look like when voters go to the polls next November? The Democrats have a pretty thin majority already. They really, really want their gun control, and they’ll probably get it. But beyond that, they may want to tread lightly. If they take a heavy hand in enforcing these laws, the backlash is likely to be decisive and enormous.