By Jeff Hulbert
Virginia Beach, the state’s largest city, has formally added its voice to the chorus of Old Dominion gun rights supporting jurisdictions that are demanding a halt to sweeping new infringement proposals that are widely regarded statewide as unconstitutional.
The Virginia Beach City Council—with one member absent—voted 6-to-4 to send a resolution to statehouse Democrats admonishing them “to take no actions which would violate the freedoms guaranteed by either the Virginia Bill of Rights, or the federal Bill of Rights.”
The vote was closely watched both within and outside the Commonwealth’s borders, as it comes just eight months after an attack by an armed and disgruntled Virginia Beach city employee, who took the lives of 12 people in municipal offices very near to where the resolution debate took place.
Months of investigation by Virginia Beach police, as well as by an outside group, could not determine what caused 40-year-old DeWayne Craddock to open fire on his colleagues in a city building where firearms carry by employees was banned.
Craddock was shot and killed by responding officers.
At a working session preceding citizen testimony, Virginia Beach Mayor Robert M. “Bobby” Dyer acknowledged an expected split among his colleagues on the need to send a formal message to Richmond.
Before casting his affirming vote to send the resolution to the capitol, Dyer said this:
“I know this is a tough one for us. We are not unified on this. We are all in agreement on one thing. We all support the Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth. There are changes coming in Richmond and some of the pre-filings have caused people to react. Yes, we were a city whose foundation was rocked, but we have to have the conversation.”
The vote came after three-and-a-half hours of citizen testimony, and 30 minutes of council discussion.
The overwhelming majority of those stepping to the podium to comment wore the now-familiar “Guns Save Lives” stickers distributed by the state’s dominant gun rights group, the Virginia Citizens Defense League.
And while the concealed carry of handguns is permitted in the city council chamber, a good number of residents chose to approach the microphone while openly carrying a sidearm.
The one Virginia Beach council member not present to hear the citizen input was Guy Tower, who had declared in an earlier Facebook post that he viewed the resolution as “inappropriate.”
Tucked into the southeast corner of the state where Chesapeake Bay opens into the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach began as a small beach town before growing to become the Commonwealth’s largest city with 450,00 residents.
In addition to having the longest resort beach in the world, the city is widely known, too, as headquarters for the U.S. Navy’s legendary Seal Team Six. As a military region, Virginia Beach is awash in citizens who’ve taken oaths to defend the Constitution.
The city’s vote to stand with firearms owners, not with the embattled Governor Ralph Northam and his fellow Democrats pushing more gun control, is seen as a significant development with just days to go before the opening of the 2020 General Assembly.
Among those testifying in favor of the resolution were several mental health professionals who said the governor’s announced infringement schemes were causing significant stress to vast number of Virginians worried about become felons overnight.
Also stepping to the microphone were scores of veterans—including Glenn Spence, a U.S Army veteran who wore a full dress uniform arrayed with an expanse of commendations and medals.
Identifying himself as the great-grandson of a slave, Spence declared his support for the resolution , saying, “I am a son of Virginia and a son of Virginia Beach. We must do the right thing.”
He wound up his testimony by raising his hand—and with eyes closed—said a prayer that city leaders would find the wisdom and strength to stand against any and all unjust lawmaking at the statehouse.
Speaking on behalf of his more than 16,000 members, Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave framed the Second Amendment fight in the Old Dominion in stark terms, saying of Virginia, “its the canary in the coal mine.”
If our gun rights get away from us, you can kiss the rest of your rights goodbye, they’re gone. Over time, they will disappear. The governor has declared war on gun owners, people like you and me. He has not declared war on criminals. And he has admitted that not one thing he has put forth would have stopped the massacre here.
One citizen used his testimony time to count out a cadence of six seconds—to underscore how quickly an armed parishioner interrupted a mass shooting at a Texas church just over a week ago.
Of the four council members who voted against the resolution, two spoke at length about their objections.
Council member Sabrina Wooten—14 months into her first term—complained “there is a serious unbalanced discussion taking place here tonight.”
She was referring to the fact that of the more than 60 people taking the opportunity to testify, only about a half-dozen people who opposed the resolution showed up to speak.
“This resolution does not reflect the entire community”, she claimed, suggesting that some had stayed away because they feared gun rights supporters.
Virginia Beach native Aaron Rouse, another first term council member voicing a “no” vote, once played for the Green Bay Packers and two other NFL teams before returning to town to start a non-profit focused on troubled youths.
Rouse says his objection to the Virginia Beach resolution favoring established gun rights over the proposed infringements in Richmond comes partly from his personal proximity to tragedy.
“I have experienced two mass shootings—one at Virginia Tech, and the second one right here in my hometown”.
Rouse said that the Second Amendment rights movement that has swept across Virginia over the past several months was too fraught with partisanship.
Before casting his vote, Rouse quoted John F. Kennedy, saying “let’s us not seek the Republican answer or the Democrat answer, but the right answer.”
With its vote, Virginia Beach joins 117 other counties and towns that have passed resolutions declaring Second Amendment sanctuary status, or have passed resolutions rebuking the Governor and his fellow Democrats for filing bills seen as unlawful and infringing on gun rights.
Virginia Beach is now Virginia’s 118 sanctuary!!!
— Phil Van Cleave VCDL (@VCDL_ORG) January 7, 2020
Despite the overwhelming opposition of his fellow Virginians, Governor Northam—who has been unable to shake a “blackface” college yearbook photo scandal that erupted almost year ago—says he isn’t backing down from his call for the Democrat-majority General Assembly to move forward with gun control hearings as early as January 13th.
A week later, on January 20th, thousands of gun rights supporters are expected in Richmond for planned demonstrations on behalf of Second Amendment rights in the Commonwealth.
Mayor Bobby Dyer acknowledged that the eyes of the nation are on Virginia as the inevitable political clash approaches.
“I don’t think that there is any question that we are living in challenging times in the Commonwealth, and there are some issues that we are going to have to confront.”
Jeff Hulbert is the founder of Patriot Picket.