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Prince William Supervisors Postpone Vote on Gun Safety Resolution

| January 8, 2020 | 0 Comments | News

New Chairwoman Ann Wheeler proposed the resolution on gun safety.

At its first meeting on Jan. 7, the new Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted unanimously to postpone its vote on the Gun Control/Safety Resolution until Jan. 21.

Before the next vote, the supervisors will further investigate the issue, talk with more constituents and may amend the resolution.

Although it appeared the Democrats had enough support for the resolution, more than 100 citizens came out to oppose it. In contrast, only a handful of supporters spoke on its behalf.

The resolution brought forth by Chairwoman Ann Wheeler (D) recommends that the Virginia General Assembly consider new gun control or safety legislation. The resolution is a little vague, but supports such legislation as red flag laws and expanded background checks. It does not support ceasing firearms from their owners.

10A is a response to the Constitutional County designation the last board passed in December. Wheeler said it would not undo that designation

Citizen’s Time

Speakers said they felt their second amendment rights were being infringed upon by recommendations in favor of gun control legislation in Virginia. They strongly opposed legislative measures that could ban guns that could accommodate more than 10 bullets per magazine. They felt they needed guns to protect themselves and their rights.

Some said that for the government to ban guns was authoritarianism or elected leaders acting like Nazis. “It’s the tyrannical government rearing its ugly head in Richmond,” said a Woodbridge woman.

A Coles man added, “Tyranny doesn’t just extend to one person. It is an abuse of power.”

Some also said that statistics cited in 10A were misleading. It does not note how many acts of gun violence are suicides or police matters, but many people will interpret the numbers as murders or homicides.

They would rather have victims protect themselves with guns than to have their abusers turn the tables on them with red flag laws.

They said certain cities still had high murder rates despite some of the strictest gun laws. And they said the numbers do not reflect how much gun violence is prevented by citizens having guns.

Gun control proponents said the Supreme Court ruled that gun regulations is not the same as infringement. “Children today are scared,” said one speaker. “They believe their right to a weapon is more important than their lives.”

The Process

Constituents complained about the process the Chairwoman had followed putting the resolution on the agenda, saying that citizen’s time ought to have been held in the evening rather than the afternoon. Holding early citizens’ time meant fewer people could participate because they were at work.

They purported the item should have been placed on the agenda one week before voting as per the board’s procedures. They also did not like that Wheeler limited them to only 2 minutes to speak. Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland (R) asked if that was because she did not want to hear people’s comments. Wheeler said actually, it was because she wanted to be able to hear from everyone.

Tammy Spinks of Nokesville said it’s not about what party you are in but whether the people can trust you or not.

Nokesville resident Tammy Spinks said she was critical of the last Chairman for the last decade and a half and is finding herself having to complain of similar behavior.

“I expect ethical and moral behavior from my elected officials regardless of which party they represent. No one who regularly follows this board will view the Chair’s egregious and deceitful attempt to vote on her gun resolution this afternoon as good or open governance…Bypassing the one week notice is effectively squelching public input,” and is “contrary to the Democratic platform. I thought you promised us better.”

Wheeler said that the board’s first meeting of the year generally does not have an afternoon session, and the resolution was well announced, “evidenced by all the people who came out here tonight…Our legislature starts next week. This is adding to the legislative agenda.”

The county attorney said the chair does not need to give one week’s notice for an agenda item, but Candland said they had interpreted the procedural rule to apply to everyone.

Discussion

The supervisors held its first vote to postpone until the next meeting. That received a tie vote 4-4, thus the amendment failed.

During their discussion, supervisors said they want to listen to all constituents and not act in a purely partisan fashion.

Wheeler said that it was never her intention to take anyone’s guns away.

“How to find middle ground on this area. How can we do that? And, if people say ‘never,’ that’s going to be a problem… We have people on both sides of this issue who are so concerned,” she said.

Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson (R) said she finds the left can act on “emotions,” but they need to take time to “study,” the laws. She would also be in favor in supporting mental health services.

Supervisor Yesli Vega (R) of the Coles District, who is a former police officer and Prince William Sheriff’s Deputy, asked why a weapons expert was not consulted, and reminded people how important the issue is for citizens.

“We certainly, certainly do not need to make our law-abiding citizens feel our rights are in jeopardy,” Vega said.

Occoquan Supervisor Kenny Boddye (D) said the issue was personal to him because bullets flew through his window when he was 3-years-old. His mother also had untreated mental health issues that resulted in suicide.

Candland said if they learned more about the legislation, they could be more specific in their recommendations.

Many supervisors said they wanted to start their terms in a nonpartisan way.

“This is an opportunity for us to show cohesiveness in our county. Let’s move in a congenial way,” said Potomac Supervisor Andrea Bailey (D).

“We have hard lines on both sides of the issue. We really need to figure out where to bridge the gap,” said Supervisor Margaret Franklin of Woodbridge (D). “I do believe that gun safety is important, but that doesn’t mean I want to take away anyone’s guns.”

Postponement

Neabsco Supervisor Victor Angry (D) proposed a “friendly amendment” or new motion to postpone to an even later date.

“We talked about very many things today, for a long time, in the snow. I do want this to be a united board working for the citizens. There is a lot of trust we want to build, but you guys got to give us a chance too,” Angry said.

Angry’s motion received unanimous support.

The date of the vote was set for Jan. 21 and presentations would be provided in between. The board would also hold another citizens’ time, this time in the evening.

The new Chairwoman also affirmed her desire to work cooperatively.

“It would nice to show the rest of the state, the rest of the country, how we can work in our little corner of the world to come together and do it right,” said Wheeler. “Can we be an example for other people of how to do it well?”

© 2020, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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