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Sanctuary counties: Inside America’s gun rights resistance


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Sanctuary counties: Inside America’s gun rights resistance

Democrats swept to victory in Virginia last year after campaigning on stricter gun control laws. Weeks later, the backlash began. Image copyright Joel Gunter Image caption Militia members arriving at a meeting in a Virginia suburb, ahead of a gun rally the following day The Culpeper County 2A Facebook group had five rules. Rule one…

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Democrats swept to victory in Virginia last year after campaigning on stricter weapon control laws. Weeks later on, the reaction began.

BBC

Militia members arriving at a meeting in a Virginia suburb, ahead of a gun rally the following day Image copyright
Joel Gunter

Image caption

Militia members reaching a meeting in a Virginia residential area, ahead of a gun rally the following day.

BBC

BBC

The Culpeper County 2A Facebook group had 5 guidelines.

Guideline one was “Get Hectic – Follow the Action Strategy and take the necessary actions to secure our rights. Sharing memes isn’t enough. We require coordinated action.”

Guideline two was “Do Not Quit – We remain in the battle of our lives. Act appropriately. Never surrender.”

At some time in late January the guidelines changed, and rule two ended up being “No racism”. But the fundamental purpose remained: Culpeper County 2A (the 2A means Second Change) was established with the goal of withstanding weapon control expenses working their way through the Virginia state legislature.

Similar groups are springing up throughout the state. Dozens of towns and counties are passing resolutions stating themselves “second change sanctuaries” – a term obtained from the “sanctuary cities” migration motion of several years earlier. The resolutions vary from county to county, however they broadly state support for the 2nd amendment and label the suggested state gun control laws as void.

Democrats won control of the Virginia Home and Senate in November for the very first time in 24 years, and they immediately proposed a raft of weapon control steps from universal background checks to limitations on high capability magazines. The bills came as no surprise – the Democrats had actually campaigned heavily on gun control, backed by funding from activist groups which comprehensively outspent the National Rifle Association in its home state. Democratic candidates were responding to a growing clamour for gun control that started with the mass shooting of 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 and was magnified in 2015 when a community employee slaughtered 12 people in Virginia Beach. When they won, the Democrats turned their proposals into expenses and assured a wave of progressive legislation. Weeks later on, the backlash began.

Nearly 200 Virginia towns have now passed 2nd change sanctuary resolutions, turning the old Confederate capital into a type of frontline as soon as again. The driving force behind the resolution in Culpeper County was Patrick Heelen, a local attorney who founded the Culpeper County 2A group.

Heelen is a barrel-chested man, a little over six feet, who uses cowboy boots and has a long beard befitting his function as a captain in local Civil War battle re-enactments. He chooses the term “constitutional county” to 2nd modification sanctuary, because he believes the founding fathers planned to grant outright weapon rights to the population, in all time.

” All eyes are on Virginia,” he told me. “America is watching what we do, how we conduct ourselves. America is watching to what degree we will be bossed around. America is enjoying to see if we are going to decide.”

I asked Heelen how far he and his fellow Culpeper County 2A members would go to protect their guns. “We are dedicated,” he said.

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Local attorney Patrick Heelen has been a vocal proponent of gun rights in Culpeper Image copyright
Joel Gunter

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Local attorney Patrick Heelen has actually been a singing supporter of weapon rights in Culpeper.

BBC

At the very first Board of Supervisors conference in Culpeper, on a cold Tuesday early morning in December, numerous people came that the 180- capability space overruned into the corridor and clear into the parking area. This was an uncommon state of affairs for the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors.

” I have actually been on the board for 38 years and this was the most significant crowd I ever saw,” Expense Chase, the vice chairman, stated afterwards. “It is the most fired up problem I’ve seen in all my years.”

Numerous at the meeting used brilliant orange stickers reading “Guns conserve lives”, which are becoming familiar in parts of Virginia. Chase presented the resolution, to a round of applause, and invited Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins to speak. Jenkins – the most senior officer in the county – estimated the constitution and the starting father of Virginia, Richard Henry Lee, and called the concept of limiting ownership of high-capacity 15- round publications “insane”. He told the crowd that it wasn’t in reality the 2nd change that provided gun rights to people, but God.

Jenkins also made an unforeseen statement that put Culpeper on the map in the sanctuaries motion: he said he would deputise anybody in the county who desired, affording them the exact same broad gun rights as a constable’s deputy and permitting them to overlook new gun laws.

I met Jenkins later at the Culpeper County Constable’s workplace. “My declaration was simply that I would choose to swear in hundreds or even countless our people as deputy constables if requirement be, to allow them to have weapons and push back on that overreach by our government,” he said.

He explained that Virginia already has great deals of laws on the books that are not implemented. “We have laws versus spitting on a public surface or sidewalk,” he stated. “I can not remember an officer imposing that in the time I’ve been working.”

Some would argue that the gun control expenses travelling through the state legislature handle more serious issues, like reducing access to the sort of high-powered rifles that have actually been used to disastrous result in mass shootings, or making it simpler to briefly remove guns from those experiencing a mental health crisis.

However Constable Jenkins indicated that, were the bills to pass into law in the coming weeks, they would sit someplace around spitting on a public surface area in his list of concerns. “I think if there are no other more essential issues to concentrate on, possibly officers will focus on them,” he stated.

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Sheriff Scott Jenkins in his patrol car. He has offered to deputise thousands of citizens Image copyright
Joel Gunter

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Constable Scott Jenkins in his patrol vehicle. He has actually provided to deputise countless citizens.

BBC

After Sheriff Jenkins had actually finished speaking at the Board of Supervisors meeting and a handful of locals had actually spoken in support of the resolution, the board adjourned ahead of a second conference that night. At the night conference, which was likewise loaded with supporters, someone stood to speak versus the resolution.

As a young, sharply-dressed black man, Uzziah Harris stuck out in numerous methods. He told the crowd the context of the 2nd Amendment was “clear in that it permitted the keeping and bearing of arms in order to preserve a militia in times of emergency”.

” It never mentioned or specified regarding how numerous or what kind of gun and it never ever stated anything about lack of limitation despite mental or psychological capacity,” he stated. “There presently isn’t a nationwide emergency, nor does the military requirement supplements.”

Harris, a middle school English instructor, went on to cite cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis, automobiles and the web as items normally and acceptably regulated. “So what is wrong with guideline of firearms?” he stated.

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At the end of the conference, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the resolution.

Harris has an in-depth understanding of parts of the constitution and can recite the second amendment, parsing its meaning as he goes. Like others in Culpeper opposed to this motion, he supports the second change. “Wholeheartedly,” he told me.

” However there are limits that can be put and should be put on weapon ownership. We should have background checks, we need to make certain that people have the psychological capability to own weapons. Searching is something, protection of your families is another – but this increase of military weapons, limitless cartridges and rounds, how beneficial is that for searching? How required is that for protection of your families?”

The advocates of the sanctuary motion are fast to dismiss searching and household defense as reasons for safeguarding gun rights, however. They are generously clear: the right to bear arms has to do with defence against a “dictatorial government” – an idea that dates back to the starting daddies.

” The important things is,” Harris stated, “it does not matter what you have in your stockpile, what possibility do you have versus the US military now? What opportunity do you have versus drones?”

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Uzziah Harris was the only person to stand against the resolution at a local meeting Image copyright
Joel Gunter

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Uzziah Harris was the only person to stand against the resolution at a local meeting.

BBC

The Saturday after the Board of Supervisors meeting, Culpeper County 2A and the local Republican politician Committee staged a rally at Culpeper’s Yowell Meadow Park, where local militia had summoned in 1770 to eliminate the British. About 500 Second Change advocates stood under grey skies and drizzle to hear Constable Jenkins and others discuss the sanctuary movement.

The gathering drew an excellent crowd for such a miserable day, but it was really only a warm up for a much larger occasion. Jenkins, Heelen, and the other sanctuary advocates were all looking a week ahead to the annual Lobby Day rally in the state capital of Richmond, where as numerous as 50,000 individuals were anticipated to collect in the streets – lots of greatly armed – to oppose versus the Democratic weapon control bills.

The rally was set for Monday 20 January. Over the weekend, people flooded into Virginia from neighboring states and from as far as Texas and California. President Trump weighed in on Twitter on Saturday, telling the nation: “Your 2nd Amendment is under really severe attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s what takes place when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away.”

On the Sunday night prior to the rally, a number of state militia groups gathered for dinner at a community hall in a rural suburban area about 30 miles beyond Richmond. Christian Yingling, the commander of the Pennsylvania Lightfoot Militia, helped organise the supper. “We reached out to get a lot of good reliable militias together to come stand with individuals of Virginia,” he said.

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Christian Yingling Image copyright
Joel Gunter

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Christian Yingling of the Pennsylvania Lightfoot Militia.

Local militia distributed leafets and used bullets as table decorations Image copyright
Joel Gunter

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Local militia dispersed leafets and used bullets as table decorations.

BBC

Inside the community hall the crowd was mostly male and nearly entirely white. There were little arms holstered to people’s hips and tucked in the waistbands of jeans, and glasses of bullets as table designs. There was a sample of right and left-wing groups there – the Pennsylvania and South Carolina Lightfoot Militias sat together with members of the John Brown Gun Club and an agent from the local Antifa chapter, which had actually announced days prior to that it would progress Monday along with the pro-gun individuals. Unlike the lethal rally in nearby Charlottesville two years earlier, the politics of the Lobby Day rally were not right versus left.

The Virginia People Defence League – a conservative, pro-gun lobby group that organised the rally – led the meeting. The membership of the VCDL tripled in the wake of the Democratic midterm win, according to its president Philip Van Cleave – swelling from 8,000 to 24,000 members, and the group is now the driving force behind the Virginia sanctuaries motion. It had actually printed hundreds of large placards displaying a map of locations that had passed resolutions – “91 counties/ 12 cities/ 22 towns”.

Greg Trojan, one of the creators of the VCDL, gave a speech singling out Michael Bloomberg, the previous mayor of New York and current Democratic governmental prospect, for funding gun control projects and prospects in the state. Bloomberg and George Soros – the Jewish financier who has actually ended up being a component of conservative conspiracy theories – turned up several times. There is an understanding that big-money Democrat donors bought the election and are forcing weapon control on a state that does not desire it – permitting a dense urban population to determine the law to the state’s rural conservative heartlands. VCDL marketing videos caution that Democrat-driven immigration is altering Virginia’s culture.

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Greg Trojan of the VCDL. Image copyright
Joel Gunter


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