Attorney General: Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions have ‘no legal effect’

Posted at 2:29 PM, Dec 20, 2019

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an advisory opinion Friday saying that Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions passed by localities across Virginia ahead of possible new gun safety laws passed by the General Assembly will have “no legal effect.”

With new control of both the state House and Senate, the expectation is lawmakers will pass a number of gun control measures in 2020 for Democratic Governor Ralph Northam to sign.

In response to this expectation, Republican-leaning counties around Virginia have passed resolutions declaring themselves to be Second Amendment sanctuaries and voiced opposition to any future laws that may infringe upon Second Amendment rights.

Last week, Hanover County became the latest Virginia locality to pass a resolution supporting the right to bear arms.

In the advisory opinion, Herring says localities and local constitutional officers cannot nullify state laws and must follow potential gun violence prevention measures passed by the General Assembly.

“When the General Assembly passes new gun safety laws they will be enforced, and they will be followed. These resolutions have no legal force, and they’re just part of an effort by the gun lobby to stoke fear,” said Herring in a statement.

“What we’re talking about are the kind of commonsense gun safety laws that Virginians voted for just a few weeks ago, like universal background checks to make sure that dangerous people aren’t buying guns. Too many Virginians have lost their lives to guns and it is well past time that we enact these gun safety measures that will save lives and make our communities safer.”

House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) released a statement Friday afternoon calling Herring’s opinion a contradiction of previous statements.

“Attorney General Herring’s opinion is interesting, as it directly contradicts his own statements and actions regarding the supremacy of state law over the preferences of the officials who must enforce them.

In 2014, Herring declined to defend Virginia law in state court, despite a statutory duty to do so. He told the Richmond Times Dispatch [] ‘…If I think the laws are adopted and constitutional, (then) I will defend them…’

His opinion today notes that ‘it has long been the indisputable and clear function of the courts … to pass upon the constitutionality of legislative acts.’ This not only conflicts with his previous statement about his own conduct, but also the position of a number of Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorneys regarding prosecution of marijuana possession.”

Herring’s advisory opinion comes after Del. Jay Jones (D – 89th) wrote the Attorney General a letter requesting a “definitive opinion” heading into the 2020 General Assembly session.



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