It’ll be the evening of January 21 when the Prince William Board of County Supervisors takes up the discussion of gun rights for the third time in the past two months.
At its first meeting of the New Year on Tuesday, the Board voted unanimously to wait on a proposed resolution that urges legislators in Richmond to pass a red flag law allowing judges to temporarily restrict the gun rights of those they deem a threat to themselves or others.
The resolution also calls for more state funding to help combat the state’s growing mental health crisis that, over the years, has taken many county police officers off the streets to temporarily monitor those that are suffering from mental illness.
The resolution was authored by the Board’s new Chair, Ann Wheeler, who this month brought Democratic control of the Board of Supervisors, taking over the seat from the long-serving Republican Corey Stewart who did not seek reelection last year.
Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland argued that because the resolution had just been introduced, it could not be voted on the same day. That would be in keeping with a four-year tradition on the Board, he said. Supervisors agreed to take up the measure again at its 7:30 p.m. session at the McCoart Government Center, at 1 County Complex Court in Woodbridge on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.
Supervisors decided to add the evening session onto its regular meeting calendar as it did not have an evening session scheduled until February 4. Supervisors on Tuesday held a special closed session meeting at 7 p.m. which was used as an opportunity to discuss how the elected leaders would be protected during public meetings, said Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson.
Prior to the decision to delay the vote, more than 300 passionate residents wearing bright orange stickers that stated “Guns Save Lives” packed the government center in opposition to the resolution. More than 130 spoke their minds to the Board of County Supervisors.
“Red flag laws will be used to seize arms from those who make unpopular statements,” warned John LaRoe, of Haymarket. A temporary detention order now used by police is a more effective tool in dealing with those who may be a threat to themselves or others, he added.
“We believe in gun safety training and practice. We have the right of the people to keep and bear arms and that right will not be infringed,” said Ed Hunter, who identified himself as a Northern Virginia resident.
Colin Robinson, of Haymarket, spoke in support of the resolution and stuck out his tongue when exiting the Board Chambers, in front of more than 200 people who opposed it. Before that, he told the Board, “… the first and second amendments are not a guarantee…the founders didn’t anticipate AK47s, bump stocks, TV, any number of things that affect the right to bear arms. Hiding behind the 2nd amendment is ridiculous. I Don’t know where all of these folks were when we were voting in November. Every democrat ran on some sort of gun control measure. And now we’re here to give it to you. It will be reasonable,” said Robinson.
The resolution comes less than a month after the Board of County Supervisors declared Prince William a “constitutional county,” which means its leaders support the 2nd Amendment as written in the U.S. Constitution. Tuesday’s resolution was not designed to repeal the December action.
It does, however, urge members of the Virginia General Assembly to address gun violence prevention in Virginia by passing gun safety legislation that includes:
- Properly allowing an appropriate court of law to temporarily limit an individual’s access to firearms when they have been deemed a threat to themselves or others
- Eliminating potential background check loopholes by requiring background checks for all gun purchases through a Federal Firearms license
- Supporting laws to limit child access to firearms to reduce adolescent suicides and accidental adolescent shootings
- Additional funding from the Commonwealth for firearms safety education across the Commonwealth
- Waiving sales tax on gun safes and gun safety locks to help promote such safe gun handling practices
- Strong penalties for adults that allow unsafe access to firearms by children