Radford City Council declines to approve Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution

Radford City Council declines to approve Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution

Radford City Council on Monday night failed to approve a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution when one councilmember’s motion to do so failed for lack of a second.

Councilman Rob Gropman made the motion during time set aside for council member comments. His motion followed comments from several city residents – most of whom supported passage of a sanctuary resolution.

During his remarks, Gropman said that “with the stroke of a pen some lawmakers [proposing new gun laws] in Richmond are attempting to classify 2.5 million Virginians and thousands of Radford residents as felons overnight.”

“That’s an outright obscenity,” he charged.

Gropman continued that he fully realizes such sanctuary resolutions are largely just political statements from participating localities and may not hold up in a court of law.

“But they send a message to the governor that he can’t just moonwalk over the Constitution of the United States,” he said.

After he made a motion for council to approve the resolution, the others on council remained silent.

Vice Mayor Richard Harshberger then noted he would not second Gropman’s motion, partly because of council’s long-standing practice of not voting on an issue that isn’t on council’s agenda, and which does not have unanimous or near-unanimous support.

Councilmember Naomi Huntington had already noted – prior to Gropman’s comments – that she did not believe it was Radford City Council’s place to decide what is or what isn’t Constitutional, or who might or might not be prosecuted.

Harshberger noted, however, that he does support a future ban on the sale of assault weapons to private citizens and for the strengthening of background checks of buyers of guns.

He also expressed support for changes in laws to protect the mental health community when it needs to share information on a disturbed patient or client while protecting them from doing harm to themselves or others.

“However,” Harshberger continued, “I am not in favor of limiting the freedom of responsible, licensed adult citizens to own and bear arms. Nor am I in favor of confiscation of those arms.”

Harshberger continued he is also opposed to the designation of certain places – such as council chambers – as gun free zones as some legislation calls for.

“Doing that would make us a magnet for any deranged individual with a gun to see our meeting places as opportunity zones for shooting defenseless people and maybe getting away with it,” he said.

While Harshberger said some of the proposed new gun laws are well thought out and well crafted, others “do violence to our Second Amendment rights and would make us less safe, not more.”

He urged the General Assembly and Governor to “proceed with moderation.”

Councilmember Jessie Foster said citizens did not vote council members into office to make these types of decisions.

“That’s what the state and federal governments are for,” she said.

“My opinion on gun laws is irrelevant,” Foster said, noting she is a veteran and has been trained to have respect for weapons.

She continued she agreed with Harshberger that there is some good legislation being proposed and some bad.

But, she added, “we need to focus on the things you voted us in to do.”

Mayor David Horton said a recording of Monday night’s meeting would be sent to those state representatives who represent Radford so they can hear everyone’s comments.

Horton expressed concern over the Second Amendment Sanctuary issue personally.

“I’ve lost a lot of sleep over the past week. So much about a sanctuary resolution could be negative for our community. For someone to have the perception that a law didn’t apply to them because Radford Council said we are a Second Amendment Sanctuary could cause great harm to you and your family and the people you care about because you could still be liable for those laws,” Horton explained.

Horton added there is a process to go through, and that he and the rest of council had sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution. “And part of that Constitution includes the process for how we address things,” he said.

Noting he expects everyone to follow the Constitution, Horton said if a law passes that is deemed unconstitutional “that law without a doubt will not be enforced in the city – once it has gone through the right process.”

“This is America. There are rules that we decided on as a nation,” Horton said, adding that he felt the same way months ago on immigration laws.

During public comment, it was noted by one speaker that there are rumblings among some in Radford that failure to pass a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution might prompt some to go out of the city to buy their gas and groceries. One speaker even mentioned making those purchases specifically in Dublin.

Another speaker noted that shootings occurring in America today aren’t due to a gun problem, but rather are a “head problem – a heart problem.”

Another speaker voiced concerns over whether or not the city government – or towns and counties for that matter – could legally pass such resolutions due to wording in the Code of Virginia and the fact Virginia is a Dillon Rule state.

He quoted one section of the State Code that said localities are forbidden from passing any resolution or ordinance concerning firearms.

Two Radford High School students spoke out against a resolution and another speaker said the way to change things is by voting.