Gun-control laws have become an increasingly partisan issue over the past few decades. Perhaps no state illustrates that so clearly right now as Virginia. In November, Democrats took control of both houses of the state legislature for the first time since 1995, so with Democrat Ralph Northam as governor, the party controls state government for the first time since 1993.Rural Virginians, fearing that Democrats will introduce tighter gun laws, have taken measures to assert their right to own firearms since then. “At least 60 of Virginia’s 95 counties have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries in recent weeks. They follow counties in states such as Colorado and New Mexico,” The Economist reports. “They have borrowed from the left the rhetoric of the ‘sanctuary cities’ movement, where local governments limit their co-operation with federal immigration authorities in an attempt to protect illegal immigrants from deportation. But, in practice, for a county to declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary is little more than a howl of rage from rural gun owners.”

Gun control was a big issue in Virginia’s November elections; a gunman killed 12 people in Virginia Beach in May. Gov. Northam called a special legislative meeting on gun control soon afterward, but Republicans, who then controlled both chambers, ended it in 90 minutes.

Northam proposed modest gun-control measures in the special session, and Democrats say they plan to introduce tighter background checks and ban the purchase of some types of guns when they take office in January. “Yet what is popular in Virginia’s fast-growing cities and suburbs, where well-educated and immigrant newcomers have settled, is anathema in rural areas,” The Economist reports.

“The problem is the people who have moved into the cities,” Gary Colvan told The Economist at a recent Augusta County meeting on a “sanctuary” proposal. He said city dwellers didn’t understand that guns aren’t just a cultural issue, but that rural Virginians may need to protect their families. “Out here a police officer can be half an hour away,” he told The Economist. He said mass shootings pained him but that armed citizens make for a safer country.

 

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