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Washington Post: ‘Unconstitutional and worthless’: Emails show Virginia officials doubting gun sanctuaries

January 27, 2020

Emails Obtained by Everytown Show VA Local Officials Acknowledging that their ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary’ or Lawless County Resolutions Hold no Legal Merit and Sow Confusion

Everytown also Publishes Detailed Rebuttal of Attempts to Legally Justify Defiance of Gun Safety Laws 

This morning, the Washington Post published a report detailing how Virginia county officials who have pushed to make their counties so-called ‘Second Amendment sanctuaries’ have acknowledged that the lawless county resolutions have no legal merit and have created confusion and uncertainty. Emails obtained by Everytown for Gun Safety reveal local employees and their lawyers in Virginia acknowledging that the resolutions they have adopted or considered in their jurisdictions have no legal effect, and also demonstrate the confusion they create among constituents and law enforcement. According to the Washington Post:

“The messages show local officials questioning the validity of sanctuary resolutions that were being rapidly adopted by Virginia counties, cities and towns as the new Democratic majorities in the state legislature prepared to pass sweeping gun control measures. The emails also describe confusion among residents about whether living in a so-called gun sanctuary would remove limits on how guns could be bought and sold.”

In a November 20 email to other Tazewell County officials, Tazewell County Administrator Eric Young expressed doubts over the efficacy of these resolutions.

“‘It could give the Sheriff and Commonwealth’s Attorney something to hang their hat on so they do not go to jail for refusing to perform their duty,’ he wrote to Tazewell Supervisor Charles A. Stacy (D) and other supervisors. ‘Basically a naked sanctuary statement from the Board is unconstitutional and worthless. In fact it probably violates all of our oaths of office.’”

“Clearly, the local officials declaring their counties ‘second amendment sanctuaries’ know what we know, that counties and sheriffs can’t exempt themselves from state gun laws,” said Justin Wagner, Senior Counsel at Everytown for Gun Safety. “It’s also clear that the resolutions are sowing confusion among constituents and law enforcement. Everyone should be aware that, of course, the rule of law still applies in ‘second amendment sanctuary’ counties – despite the misinformation being spread by their local officials.”

Philip Van Cleave, the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League who organized the January 20 gun extremist rally, also spoke to the toothlessness of these resolutions. He “acknowledged in an interview Friday that the declarations are ‘largely a statement…’”

In addition, these resolutions have created dangerous confusion among residents. In an interview, Tazewell Supervisor Charles Stacy detailed how “we had convicted felons who said, ‘Oh, God, I just got my gun rights back’” as a result of lawless county resolutions.

The emails were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Everytown for Gun Safety. The organization provided copies to The Washington Post, which independently confirmed their authenticity.

Read the full Washington Post reporting here. Additionally, please find Everytown Law’s analysis of these FOIA results, and its detailed legal rebuttal of the meritless arguments offered to justify Virginia Lawless County resolutions, here.

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