By Calvin Pynn, contributor
The Harrisonburg City Council will discuss a request for a resolution supporting Second Amendment rights at its meeting next Tuesday night, but has not scheduled a vote on the topic.
Last month, the city Republican Committee issued a statement urging council to declare Harrisonburg a Second Amendment Sanctuary. Harrisonburg is one of the relatively few localities in Virginia that has yet to vote on the issue. While a discussion of the issue is on the agenda for the Jan. 14 city council meeting, it will not be voted on then, said Harrisonburg Director of Communications Mike Parks.
“This will really be kind of the first conversation for them,” Parks said. “Right now, they’re waiting to have a chance to have that conversation and kind of get some more information before they move forward.”
Depending on the outcome of the council’s discussion, the issue may be put to a vote at a later meeting.
After Democrats won majorities in both houses of the state legislature last November, more than 100 counties and cities across the state have adopted resolutions declaring themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries. The move comes in anticipation of new gun control laws that may be passed by the General Assembly, which convened yesterday to begin its 2020 session.
On Dec. 11, the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to declare the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary, after a public hearing at Spotswood High School attended by thousands who overwhelmingly supported the measure.
The localities that have declared themselves as Second Amendment Sanctuaries intend to not use funds to enforce certain potential gun control measures, including universal background checks, high capacity magazine bans, assault weapon bans, and red flag laws. Though not legally binding, the resolutions are meant to send a message to Richmond about constituents’ positions on potential new gun control laws.
As is custom, council will not hear public comment on the request for a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution at next week’s meeting. According to Councilman George Hirschmann, the topic would have to be continued to a future meeting to allow time for public comment.
Hirschmann supports the Second Amendment rights movement in Harrisonburg.
“I look at it as not enacting any new laws, but to let the governor know our thoughts on the subject,” Hirschmann said. “If they would enforce the current ownership and purchase regulations, I believe it would be as effective [as new laws], if not more so.”
Other council members, including Mayor Deanna Reed and Vice Mayor Sal Romero, did not return messages seeking comment by press time.
“I’m not sure what other people are thinking, but we will find out Tuesday,” Hirschmann said.
Harrisonburg’s Republicans mobilize ahead of meeting.
In anticipation of the City Council meeting, Harrisonburg’s Republican Committee will hold an informational meeting at 6pm tonight at the Rockingham County Administration Center to prepare party members for civic engagement in the coming year. According to Jennifer Brown, Chair of the 6th Congressional District Republican Committee, the meeting will provide talking points for approaching City Council members about the issue.
“They always say you attract more flies with honey than vinegar,” Brown said. “So basically, if you go to a City Council meeting, where you know you’re going to have opposition, and you present yourself well, and present your topic well, then it cuts across all of the divisiveness.”
Despite the fact that there will be no public comment period during the Second Amendment Sanctuary discussion, the city’s Republican Party has called for supporters to pack council chambers and submit their thoughts on the issue through the city’s online comment form. Brown said they will respect the council’s rules, while continuing to advocate for a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution through social media and directly contacting council members.
Based on her previous experiences with Harrisonburg’s City Council, and given the city’s increasingly Democratic electorate, Brown does not expect the council to declare Harrisonburg as a Second Amendment Sanctuary if the matter is ever put to a vote.
“The fact that they’re going to have it on their agenda is great,” Brown said. “But I don’t remain hopeful just due to the fact that I have been down this road before in Harrisonburg, and the majority will do what the majority wants.”
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