By Debbie Adams
Vinton Town Council adopted a resolution at its meeting on December 17 declaring the Town of Vinton a Second Amendment Sanctuary Town.
The vote was 4-1 in favor of its passage with Mayor Brad Grose, Vice Mayor Keith Liles, Councilwoman Sabrina McCarty, and Councilman Mike Stovall supporting the resolution and Councilwoman Janet Scheid opposed.
The meeting was held at the Vinton War Memorial rather than in the usual Council Chambers at the Municipal Building in anticipation of a larger than usual crowd. About 75 people were in attendance in total, including the audience of about 45 individuals, members of Town Council and the Vinton Planning Commission, town staff, and several members of the Vinton Police Department. The Council Chambers at the Municipal Building hold a maximum of about 75 individuals.
Council, the Planning Commission, several members of the town leadership team, and the town attorney were seated on a raised dais with a podium placed in front of them for speakers to address the platform. Those who wished to speak on the Second Amendment resolution signed up as they entered the meeting.
Mayor Grose asked them to speak with civility in their allotted three minutes– and as is generally the case at Town Council meetings– they did. The seven speakers who addressed council had their say politely and without interruption. All received applause from the audience at the end of their remarks. Five were Vinton residents.
Delegate Chris Head, who represents Vinton in the General Assembly, led off, speaking in favor of passage of the resolution. He spoke of taking an oath of office to support the constitutions of Virginia and the United States, and of the Dillon Rule in effect in Virginia that states that local governments have limited authority and can pass ordinances only in areas where the General Assembly has granted them clear authority. However, he said, localities need to make their feelings and those of their constituents known to legislators in anticipation of “pending” legislation which he fears might endanger Second Amendment rights.
Michael Storms of Vinton spoke next of his concerns that the Second Amendment is important to the American people and will be attacked by Governor Northam with new legislation coming in the 2020 session of the General Assembly. Storms served in the military and enjoys hunting and competitive shooting. He asked council to pass the resolution giving individuals the ability to protect their families “in an armed attack in the middle of the night.”
Donny Doyle, who has lived in Vinton for some 30 years, said he represents a patriotic group, the Sons of Vinton, who feel threatened by the state government, especially concerning the potential passage of Red Flag laws. Red Flag laws are gun control laws that permit police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves. A judge then makes the determination. Doyle said actions such as this violate due process and that citizens could lose their rights as the result of sibling rivalry, lovers’ quarrels, or family arguments.
Vinton resident Bill Kayser, a Navy veteran, stated that taxpayer funds should not be used to support laws that are unconstitutional. He also mentioned Red Flag laws which may lead police to be “knocking at your door” over simple grudges. He stated his belief that the 2019 elections in Virginia were influenced by “out-of-state” money and his fear that anticipated legislation will lead to confiscation of guns already possessed by individuals. He urged council to “make a statement” with the Second Amendment Sanctuary Town document.
Pastor Randall Horton of Vinton said he found it “scary” that people have to go to local governments to ask “for protection of our rights from the state government.” He told council he hoped they would follow the example of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors in adopting the Sanctuary Town resolution. He told council that he learned to shoot when he was 8 years old and has taught his sons how to use firearms and use them safely. Horton said that “bad people takes our children’s lives, not guns,” and that firearm safety begins at home. He asked that God guide council members in their decision on the resolution.
Kevin Spickard of Vinton also said that he learned to shoot at a young age and has taught his four sons those skills. His belief is that anticipated state legislation will impact not just gun rights but civil rights. He reminded council of the Virginia state motto— “Death always to tyrants.”
Patrick Harper of Vinton told council that he was a teacher at W.E. Cundiff at the time of the shootings at Virginia Tech and remembers working with the local police on procedures to deal with active shooter situations in schools. He is now employed in the financial field. He is a hunter and asked council to support the Sanctuary Town resolution.
Jacob Cochrane of Salem, accompanied by his infant son, expressed his concern with possible legislation from the General Assembly, also saying that what Governor Northam is proposing is “scary. We need to keep and bear arms. If we lose the Second Amendment, we lose everything we need to be able to defend ourselves against tyranny.” He wants his child to be able to defend himself. He mentioned that actions taken by local governments as to the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions might impact their re-election chances.
Mayor Grose asked council for their comments on the proposed resolution.
“The Town of Vinton does not have the authority to violate either the Virginia constitution or the United States constitution,” said Councilwoman Janet Scheid. “I personally support both documents and, in fact, in August 2015, I took an oath of office that I would uphold them both. I intend to fulfill that oath.
“I have listened to each of you and I respect your right to speak at this public meeting,” she continued. “I understand your concerns, but I do not agree with either your concerns or your conclusions. I believe this resolution is only symbolic and is seemingly in anticipation of legislation that has neither been considered nor passed by the General Assembly. But it is clear that elections have consequences and new gun safety legislation will be passed that many of you don’t agree with.
“As a Town Council member, I will expect our Police Department to carry out all constitutional laws passed by the General Assembly and keep all our citizens safe,” Scheid said. “In fact, the Attorney General has said that there will be consequences, not for passing this meaningless resolution, but ultimately for any community that does not abide by any laws passed by the state. Think about that a minute. Is this town really not going to enforce state law?”
Scheid went on to cite the many benefits the town has reaped from state monies, including revitalization grant funding and police grants that have funded the latest safety equipment and training and participation in the DUI task force.
“Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited,” Scheid said. “Just as the First Amendment is limited; for instance, the Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal to yell ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater; the Second Amendment does not give you the right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever, in any manner whatsoever, and for whatever purpose. That was upheld by none other than Justice Anthony Scalia, a notably conservative justice.
“I hope that Virginia will lead the nation in developing and passing a series of evidence-based gun safety policies that will reduce gun deaths in the Commonwealth,” Scheid said. “These policies are supported by 90 percent of Virginia citizens. Requiring universal background checks and establishing Red Flag laws do nothing to infringe on the rights of law-abiding, responsible gun owners.”
Scheid said that she grew up in a family of gun owners. Her father hunted and she learned to shoot. She mentioned picking up a Sunday newspaper this week with three or four stories on gun violence in the United States on just one page, as well as the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. She said she planned to vote no on the resolution.
Councilman Mike Stovall, a gun owner, said that the proposed Second Amendment Sanctuary Town resolution would bring attention to the issues and that specifics such as Red Flag laws could be discussed later. “We need to let everyone know we still believe in the Second Amendment. I believe that in certain situations, firearms can protect you. The Town of Vinton needs to let the General Assembly know that we believe in the Second Amendment and that we are respectful gun owners.”
Vice Mayor Liles stated that he was elected by the citizens of Vinton and that while all citizens had been able to speak at the council meeting, only those supporting the Sanctuary Town resolution had taken the opportunity to address council. He mentioned the resolution passed by the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. He also reminded those present that a sanctuary city is not immune to state and federal laws and still must abide by the laws.
Councilwoman McCarty thanked those who made presentations for their calm demeanor and professionalism.
Mayor Grose said that while he is “not a big gun guy” and does not hunt– although he enjoys deer meat– he does support the Second Amendment. He commented that he was a little stymied by the issue being addressed at this meeting, which he described as “a little bit outside the realm of Town Council.” He usually supports “pothole politics” dealing with local issues of refuse collection, water, and road maintenance.
Second Amendment Sanctuary Town resolution passed by Vinton Town Council—the text
The following is the text of the Second Amendment Sanctuary Town Resolution approved by Vinton Town Council on December 17, 2019.
WHEREAS, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed;” and
WHEREAS, Article 1, Section 13, of the Constitution of Virginia provides “[t]hat a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed;” and
WHEREAS, the members of the Town Council of the Town of Vinton (“Council”) have taken an oath to defend and uphold the constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia; and
WHEREAS, the Council is concerned that certain legislation prefiled for introduction in the 2020 Virginia General Assembly, and certain legislation that has been introduced in the United States Congress, may have the effect of infringing on the rights of lawabiding citizens of the Town to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the United States and Virginia Constitutions; and
WHEREAS, the Council is concerned that the passage of any bill imposing unnecessary burdens on law-abiding citizens will, if the burdens are to be enforced by local officials, effectively impose unfunded mandates on the Town associated with the enforcement of new laws and regulations; and
WHEREAS, the Council wishes to express its deep commitment to the rights of all citizens of the Town of Vinton to keep and bear Arms; and
WHEREAS, the Council wishes to express opposition to any law that would unconstitutionally restrict the rights of the citizens of the Town to keep and bear arms; and
WHEREAS, the Council wishes to express its intent to stand as a Sanctuary community for Second Amendment rights, and to oppose, within the limits of the Constitutions and laws of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia, any efforts to unconstitutionally restrict such rights, and to use such legal means at its disposal to protect the rights of the citizens of the Town to keep and bear arms, including through legal action, petition for redress of grievances, and not enforcing any law ruled unconstitutional; and
WHEREAS, the Council is aware that, pursuant to Section 15.2-915 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended, the Town has no legislative or enforcement authority related to “the purchase, possession, transfer, ownership, carrying, storage or transporting of firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof other than as expressly authorized by statute”; and
WHEREAS, the Council nevertheless wishes to express its sentiments, together with the sentiments of the Vinton community as a whole, with regard to this important matter, and its continuing intent to take lawful action to protect these important rights.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE TOWN COUNCIL OF THE TOWN OF VINTON, VIRGINIA, AS FOLLOWS:
- The Town Council of the Town of Vinton hereby declares the Town of Vinton to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary community, wherein the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms for the purposes of lawful self-defense, community defense, and hunting, as protected by the United States and Virginia Constitutions, is part of the fabric of the community since before the foundation of the Republic, and is and must be respected, celebrated and upheld; and
- The Town Council of the Town of Vinton affirms its support for the rights ensured and protected by the Constitutions of the United States and Virginia, including the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms; and
- The Town Council of the Town of Vinton urges the General Assembly, the United States Congress, and other agencies of State and Federal government to vigilantly preserve and protect those rights and not to adopt, accept, or enact any provision, law, or regulation that may infringe, have the tendency to infringe, or place any additional burdens on the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms; and
- The Town Council of the Town of Vinton expresses its intent to continue to take lawful actions to protect and support the rights of its citizens to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the United States and Virginia Constitutions; and
- The Town Council of the Town of Vinton opposes, in particular, any provision, law, or regulation that may impose additional regulatory burdens on its citizens or result in mandates, whether mandatory or practical, to expend additional public funds on enforcement or administration of such laws; and
- The Town Manager is directed to cause true copies of this resolution to be forwarded to the Town’s representatives in the General Assembly and the United States Congress and to the Governor of Virginia; and
- This Resolution is effective upon adoption.