AG: Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions ‘have no legal effect’

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Attorney General Mark Herring has put the formal legal kibosh on local Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.

“It is my opinion that these resolutions have no legal effect. It is my further opinion that localities and local constitutional officers cannot nullify state laws and must comply with gun violence measures that the General Assembly may enact.”

This comes to us from an official advisory opinion from Herring dated Dec. 19 that was a formal response to a query from State Del. Jerrauld Jones, D-Norfolk, who requested the legal opinion from the attorney general on two questions: do the resolutions have any legal effect, and can localities and local officials just decide on their own to nullify state laws duly enacted by the General Assembly?

The Augusta County Board of Supervisors voted earlier this month to declare the county a Second Amendment sanctuary.

Waynesboro City Council is set to take up the sanctuary matter at a meeting on Jan. 13.

In the official opinion, Herring, in his second term as attorney general, notes that the Constitution of Virginia provides that all local authority is subject to the control of the General Assembly, and that the Code of Virginia establishes the supremacy of state law over local ordinances and policies.

Virginia, Herring notes in the advisory opinion, follows the Dillon Rule, which provides that local government may exercise “only those powers expressly granted by the General Assembly, those necessarily or fairly implied therefrom, and those that are essential and indispensable.”

“These constitutional, statutory, and common law doctrines establish that these resolutions neither have the force of law nor authorize local constitutional officials to refuse to follow or decline to enforce gun violence prevention measures enacted by the General Assembly,” Herring wrote.

“It also bears emphasis that neither local governments nor local constitutional officers have the authority to declare state statutes unconstitutional or decline to follow them on that basis. All actions of the General Assembly are presumed to be constitutional. Furthermore, it has long been the indisputable and clear function of the courts, federal and state, to pass upon the constitutionality of legislative acts. It follows from these well-established principles that all localities and local constitutional officers are required to comply with all laws enacted by the General Assembly unless and until those laws are repealed by the legislature or invalidated by the judiciary,” Herring wrote.

Story by Chris Graham


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