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Halifax joins ranks of Second Amendment sanctuary counties

South Boston News
Del. James Edmunds speaking at the Board of Supervisors meeting Monday night in Halifax. / December 03, 2019
Halifax County became the latest Virginia county to declare itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” on Monday night as the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a resolution opposing new gun laws that may surface in Richmond next year.

Hundreds of people filled the bleachers and packed the basketball court at the Mary Bethune gymnasium in Halifax to urge the supervisors to back the sanctuary resolution. By an 8-0 vote, the Board of Supervisors expressed “its deep commitment to the rights of all citizens of Halifax County to keep and bear Arms” and vowed to take lawful actions to uphold those rights.

One speaker after another argued that Second Amendment rights are under assault with gun control legislation expected to be a focal point of the 2020 session of the Virginia General Assembly, which will feature full Democratic control in Richmond for the first time in 24 years.

“Bills that [tell me] I can’t go hunting with my teenage son are ridiculous,” Ken Warfield, pastor of Fork Baptist Church in Scottsburg, told supervisors. “You guys represent ‘We the People,’ and we the people are speaking clearly that we want to protect our gun rights.”

For roughly 40 minutes, a handful of speakers out of the massive crowd offered their thoughts on owning and shooting guns — some telling how they grew up hunting and fear laws that would curtail a family tradition, others worrying what would happen if they weren’t allowed to own guns to defend themselves.

“I grew up here hunting at 10 years old. My biggest memories are hunting with my father, my grandpa and the rest of my family,” said Noah Hill. “When you take away our rights as a citizen, and you’re letting everybody do what they want to do … the criminals are still going to get what they want, no matter what.”

The overwhelmingly pro-gun audience gave one of its loudest rounds of applause to Del. James Edmunds, who spoke early during the citizens comments portion of the Board of Supervisors meeting. With about two dozen Virginia counties jumping aboard the Second Amendment sanctuary bandwagon, and more likely to join, gun control advocates “don’t realize, at least in rural Virginia, they’ve stirred a hornet’s nest and awoken a sleeping giant,” said Edmunds.

“There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of passion around this issue, and I share it.”

A call for people to raise their hands in support of the Second Amendment sanctuary resolution sent arms up throughout the building. Only a few people registered their opposition.

Edmunds has drafted a bill for the 2020 legislative session that would exempt localities that have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries from any requirement to enforce new gun control legislation. While he has conceded the bill’s chances of passage are slim, Edmunds urged supervisors and audience members to call state legislators to let them know how they feel about the issue.

“These counties that want to have Second Amendment restrictions placed on them, fine, they can have at it. But for us, leave us alone, we’re just fine down here in Halifax,” Edmunds said.

Out of the some 18 speakers who stepped forward to address supervisors, only one, Barbara Coleman-Brown, president of the Halifax County-South Boston Branch of the Virginia NAACP, expressed opposition to the sanctuary resolution.

She offered three reasons, the first being that “there is no threat to the Second Amendment of the United States constitution” with passage of gun control laws — a comment that drew murmurs and scattered catcalls from the audience. Coleman-Brown went on to criticize what she called “an attempt to subvert the will of the majority as expressed on Nov. 5 through the election results.

“If we are to respect our civic duty, it is not to subvert but to defend the democratic process as law abiding citizens, not to contrive ways to subvert the open will of the majority,” she said.

Her third reason for opposing the resolution, said Coleman-Brown, is that it stands in the way of coming together to enact “commonsense legislation around this issue.

“Did you know four mass shootings took place yesterday [Sunday], only yesterday, Dec. 1?” she asked. In another incident that happened in November, “Did you know the shooter in the same high school shot four people in less than ten seconds? In less than ten seconds, two people died.

“This [resolution] is designed to suppress any kind of commonsense gun legislation around this issue,” Coleman-Brown continued. “We say that we are an advanced nation. Then what do the statistics say? That the United States is one of the most violent countries among the advanced nations.”

Many of the speakers who turned out in support of declaring Halifax County a gun rights sanctuary stated the opposing viewpoint — that guns make people more safe, not less so.

One pastor who spoke at the meeting said church members attend services with guns at their side to protect against the threat of a mass shooter. “Firearms sit in my congregation every day for fear of somebody who has a known problem walking in and starts shooting Christians,” he said. “It is a shame you [would] go to church and be afraid for your life or for your children.”

Still others argued that gun laws are ineffective and only serve to punish law abiding citizens. Tim Hackney pointed to the example of Chicago, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the county, and “Chicago is one of the strictest gun law [cities] in the United States of America,” he said.

Another speaker, Brad Satterfield, argued that gun violence is “not a gun issue, it’s a person issue, of people who don’t have respect for the life of others.

“I certainly hope we don’t look at the gun, but at the person who committed the evil. That’s what we need to [teach people] — have respect for others,” Satterfield said.

Several military veterans spoke, among them Doug Bowen, pastor of South Boston Church of Christ. Bowen introduced himself as a 10-year citizen of Halifax County, “a 60-year citizen of the United States,” and a Marine Corps veteran. He told the supervisors they should vote for the sanctuary resolution to protect the constitutional rights of county residents.

“I didn’t give up that oath when I took off the uniform,” said Bowen, referring to his retirement from military service. “I simply ask you tonight, uphold that same oath.”

Don Wright made a similar point: “ If the Second Amendment goes, do you think all the other rights will stay? Absolutely not,” he said.

Tim Moore, a former instructor of the county 4-H rifle team, praised the value of firearms education and competitive marksmanship, noting that young people who are raised in such an environment learn the value of teamwork, cooperation, respect and personal responsibility. “Firearms, the shooting sports, can be taught at an equal level, boys and girls, and with that we can teach life skills that they can use the rest of their life,” he said.

“If we do not have this resolution, we as parents, grandparents, instructors — we may lose the opportunity to teach these skills to our youth who are coming up, who are following us,” Moore said.

After the comments period was called to a close, two board members made a few additional points before the unanimous vote to enact the resolution was taken.

William Bryant Claiborne noted that Halifax County alone cannot undo legislative action at the state or federal level — “nothing is going to be accomplished by our doing so,” he said. Claiborne suggested that to succeed, Halifax and like-minded localities would have to show that new gun laws are unconstitutional, a challenge that inevitably would end up in the courts.

“If a law is not constitutional, we’re going to have to go through the judiciary and the Supreme Court,” he said. “And the Supreme Court of the United States will eventually have to decide what’s not constitutional.”

J.T. Davis, who made the motion to approve the sanctuary resolution, seconded by Stanley Brandon, said he was acting on the basis of two documents — the Second Amendment to the Constitution itself, and the oath he read upon taking office to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

“These are the guiding documents to support the resolution,” said Davis.

Passage of the resolution puts Halifax in the company of Campbell, Charlotte, Pittsylvania, Appomattox, Amelia and some 20 other counties that have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries. The designation has no legal bearing, Edmunds said this week, which is why he plans to introduce his bill in the upcoming legislative session to “immunize” Second Amendment sanctuary communities from new gun restrictions that may pass next year.

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Congrats, you just got suckered into believing this resolution actually has meaning.


It means the people are largely agreeing to support the US constitution in this area. It means we are supporting our Delegate to try to protect our 2nd amendment rights against a governor who will allow a newborn baby to lay on a table gasping for air while he calmly discusses how to murder it. It sends a notification of how our county feels to the liberals in Richmond. If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.


“If a law is not constitutional, we’re going to have to go through the judiciary and the Supreme Court,” he said. “And the Supreme Court of the United States will eventually have to decide what’s not constitutional.”

Is that the approach African-Americans took to asserting their civil rights, Mr. Claiborne?


Support our Delegate? You have got to be kidding me. Edmunds is our representative and if he's already conceding the fight in the legislature, he's done.


Edmunds said "leave us alone, we’re just fine down here in Halifax,” referencing the House. Wasn't this the same man for the last year asking for help "down here" with getting the referendum passed on the tax and schools? So which is it Mr. Delegate, do you want the support of the House or for them to leave us alone?

I hate it when people pick and choose which portions of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution they deem to still be of importance and which have lost their meaning over a period of time. It's like Edmunds pushing the house to help with the school tax and then weeks later asking for Halifax to be left alone. Either all of the founding fathers words still carry weight or none of them do. Ironic that Southerners are talking about gun laws being unconstitutional, but the Constitution also states that "no state shall enter into confederation or coin money," but yet they did and it is celebrated. Pick and choose, pick and choose.


That was a perfect example of his hypocrisy, Clouded. Thumbs up to you.


Hypocrisy is Joe Biden and the Dems lying to this country. Our gun rights are God given not government given. Edmunds is right on with this issue. I can disagree with him on the schools tax.


Saying "gun rights are God given" is like saying those that have went on shooing sprees are "all good" because God gave them the right to do so.

Lets also keep in mind that this vote means little to nothing. A locality can vote items into place, but state laws trump those that go against state law. Just like states can vote laws into place, but federal laws are more powerful than and trump state laws.

Why does everything have to revolve around Democrats doing this or that or Republicans are doing this or that? Think back to the 20's through 50's and how people did what was best for our country and looked out for our neighbors. Good wholesome values no longer exist and a lot of it has to do to people going all in with political parties.


The last time that I checked, Biden is not our President and those Democrats don't actually rule our lives, neither do those Republicans. And the government shouldn't either.

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