The Lovettsville Town Council on Thursday is scheduled to vote on a proclamation in support of the Second Amendment, but not before a crowd of armed supporters fills the town office.
The proposed proclamation reads that the Town Council would support and defend the United States and Virginia constitutions through opposition to legislation that “infringes upon the right to keep and bear arms.” The council “strongly disagrees” with Gov. Ralph Northam and General Assembly members who they say threatening to withhold funds from localities that support residents’ rights to bear arms, and with any actions that would place the National Guard in opposition to law enforcement agencies and residents.
“The Town Council supports measures that would advance firearm safety without infringing upon the right to keep and bear arms,” it reads.
In recent months, nearly all 95 Virginia counties and dozens of other localities have passed similar proclamations—proclamations that have established most of those localities as Second Amendment sanctuary counties, cities and towns in light of the General Assembly deliberating and voting on bills aimed to intensify gun control measures.
In Loudoun, the Board of Supervisors Dec. 3 voted against a motion opposing legislation “unlawfully infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens” to keep and bear arms. The motion omitted language labelling Loudoun a sanctuary county.
Similarly, Mayor Nate Fontaine wrote in his weekly email newsletter on Friday that the proclamation would not—and could not—make Lovettsville a Second Amendment sanctuary town because the municipality does not have the authority to disregard county or state laws.
Thursday’s scheduled vote has drawn opposition from some residents and energized others.
On Jan. 25, Warner Workman, the owner of the Minuteman Arms gun shop in town, posted a video to his shop’s YouTube channel calling for armed residents to crowd into the town office for the vote. The small office fits less than two dozen people comfortably.
“I want to fill up the place,” Workman said in the video. “I want to have a parking lot full. … We’re going to go there and we’re going to have a great time.”
Workman said on Monday that he expects about 30 people to show up open carrying their weapons.
In the video, he predicted the vote would come down to a tie-breaker by Fontaine, since, Workman said, the council is made up of“three uber liberals,” or “socialist people”—referencing Vice Mayor Jim McIntyre and Councilmen Mike Dunlap and Matthew Schilling—and three councilmen who are “right of center,” or “patriotic Americans”—referencing Councilmen Chris Hornbaker, Buchanan Smith and David Steadman. It was Steadman who initially proposed the council consider a vote on the proclamation at the Jan. 23 Town Council meeting.
In response to Workman’s video, some residents have said they don’t feel safe enough to attend this week’s meeting.
Planning Commissioner Kris Consaul said she was one of those residents. “We’re not going to risk it,” she said.
Kristen Swanson, who lives down the street from the town office, said she would also not be attending. Swanson said she is a gun owner and supports the Second Amendment but nevertheless sent the Town Council an email on Monday encouraging it to dismiss the proposed proclamation.
“Workman’s efforts to rally groups to attend the council meeting armed is profoundly disturbing,” she wrote. “We do not wish to be intimidated or threatened by a parking lot full of armed men.”
Workman said he was unsure why residents would feel too unsafe to attend the meeting, since the crowd of gun-carrying residents he is calling together is an expression of free speech and right to bear arms. “I don’t know why people would be uncomfortable,” he said.
Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Kraig Troxell said the agency was aware of the rally but has yet to receive any requests for additional patrols.
Swanson wrote in her email that passing the proclamation could damage the perception of “our loving and quirky town” and that visitors might not attend town events, like Oktoberfest, “knowing that our town officials have declared our town immune to and in opposition to state gun laws.”
“I am disappointed that my Lovettsville elected representatives would use their power and authority to advance a lawless and meaningless gun rights proclamation that may negatively impact our town,” she wrote, noting that this week, Feb. 1-8, is National Gun Violence Survivors Week. “Elected representatives are obligated to serve and govern for the public good.”
In his Jan. 31 newsletter, Fontaine wrote that, because the General Assembly is considering votes on additional gun control laws for Virginians, the proclamation is a local issue. He added that the Town Council often discusses and takes stances on legislation the General Assembly takes up.
“The absolute beauty of our Nation, Commonwealth and Town is the ability to have open discussions on ideas,” he wrote. “Our upcoming Town Council meeting … is another opportunity to speak on many different items.”
The vote will come as the Virginia General Assembly continues to deliberate on bills aimed to intensify gun control measures. Last week, the House of Delegates passed seven of those bills, sending them to the Senate for a vote.Those include limiting handgun purchases to once a month, implementing universal background checks on gun purchases, allowing localities to ban guns in public buildings, and the controversial Red Flag Law that would allow law enforcement to temporarily take guns away from the residents a magistrate or judge determines pose a danger to themselves or others.
The Senate equivalents of those bills have also passed and will head to the House for deliberation.