Norton council passes gun rights sanctuary resolution

Mike Still • Dec 3, 2019 at 11:00 PM

NORTON — Norton City Council joined the ranks of 32 Virginia cities and counties when it unanimously passed its own Second Amendment sanctuary resolution Tuesday.

More than 40 city and local residents applauded as council members William Mays, Robert Fultz Jr., Delores Belcher and Mayor Joe Fawbush joined Councilman and licensed gun dealer Mark Caruso in voting for Caruso’s four-page resolution declaring the city a sanctuary.

A two-page version drafted by City Attorney Bill Bradshaw was not brought up for consideration.

In public comment before Caruso entered his resolution for a vote, Hiltons resident Donald Purdie said a vote for the sanctuary resolution “sends a very clear message that we’re not going to stand idly by and have our Second Amendment rights be infringed upon.”

Scott County, where Purdie lives, will see its Board of Supervisors consider a sanctuary resolution at Wednesday’s board meeting at 8:30 a.m.at the Community Services Building at 190 Beech St., Gate City.

Caruso’s and Bradshaw’s drafts each stated that the city would express concern or opposition about any proposed Virginia General Assembly or Congressional legislation that would infringe upon citizens’ constitutional rights to own firearms.

Caruso’s resolution mentioned the AR-15 rifle — a variant of Eugene Stoner’s design for military use that became the M-16, CAR-15, M-4 family of military rifles — five times as it criticized various proposed gun control bills for the 2020 state legislative session.

City resident Ron Norris, referring to the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller, said that case protects individual rights to own forearms for self-defense while allowing some limited precedents for barring felons and mentally ill people from owning them.

“It does not say in any way, shape or form what type of gun, what style, what type of ammunition, how many rounds it can carry,” Norris said. “It says I have a right as an individual to own a gun.”

“I’m here because of one word: ‘patriot,’ ” city resident Sam Dixon said, referring to Caruso’s Nov. 22 posting on his business’ Facebook page and website that called for “patriots” to come to Tuesday’s meeting to support his resolution.

“I don’t think that word should be included in any text of a resolution,” Dixon said. “I don’t think ‘patriot’ should be defined by how many guns you have in your closet or your gun safe.”

Caruso, before reading his resolution, thanked the audience for coming to support his proposal.

“The bottom line is this,” said Caruso. “In order to prevent a constitutional crisis and potential confrontations between the commonwealth and good, law-abiding citizens and the good law enforcement officers who serve us daily, we the people are asking the governor ask his allies in the legislature to withdraw all the new bills that restrict gun ownership and the rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and train, or to veto those bills should they reach his desk.”

Caruso said the movement of Second Amendment sanctuary measures by Virginia local governments in recent weeks highlighted “two paths” in the gun control legislative debate: respecting the right to keep and bear arms along with better crime control or creating “another class of gun-owning felons.”

Caruso said that Senate Bill 64 could make legitimate gun owners felons if they met and had firearms in their possession and someone decided they were intimidating them.

SB 64, according to its text on the state’s Legislative Information System website, makes it a Class 5 felony to teach or train others in use or making of firearms, explosive or incendiary devices, components or techniques with intent to cause or further civil disobedience. It also would make it a felony to assemble with one or more people to drill, parade or march with such firearms or devices with the intent of intimidating other people or groups.

Caruso later said the bill does not make it clear how intimidation would be determined.

“We did not seek out this confrontation,” Caruso said of proposed state gun control legislation. “They brought it to our doorstep.”

As Caruso read his resolution, he claimed that RAND Corporation studies and other research showed that gun control measures did not reduce violent gun-related crime. He also said that the Second Amendment’s mention of a “well-regulated militia” does not mean each state’s National Guard but does mean “the law-abiding citizens of the state.”

Caruso also quoted abolitionist Frederick Douglass as saying, “A man’s rights rest in three boxes: the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.”

Wise County officials confirmed Tuesday that the Board of Supervisors will also consider a sanctuary resolution at its Dec. 11, 6 p.m. meeting at the county schools Education Building on Lake Street in Wise.

Norton’s vote aligns the city with 31 other Virginia local governments that have passed similar resolutions, according to the Virginia Citizens Defense League website. The League has advocated sanctuary resolutions by local governments.

In far Southwest Virginia, Lee, Dickenson, Russell, Tazewell and Buchanan counties’ boards of supervisors have passed sanctuary resolutions. Roanoke’s city council on Monday rejected a proposed sanctuary resolution, according to an article in Monday’s Roanoke Times.

In other business, council also unanimously approved a resolution honoring early 20th century Norton newspaper publisher and editor Bruce Crawford for his role in getting Virginia to pass an anti-lynching law in 1928.

Crawford, owner and publisher of Crawford’s Weekly, reported on and editorialized on the 1923 lynching by gunfire of black murder suspect Leonard Wood on the Virginia-Kentucky state line by a gang of armed whites from Kentucky and Wise County.

Text of Caruso’s and Bradshaw’s draft resolutions: https://www.nortonva.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/2706 - Caruso’s is on pages 7-10, Bradshaw’s on pages 11-12,

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