The Wilkes County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night declaring Wilkes a “Second Amendment Constitutional Rights Protection County.”
The resolution said “Wilkes County government will respect and defend the Second Amendment rights of county citizens” to keep and bear arms. It said the commissioners will oppose any efforts to restrict those rights by directing county employees, withholding funds or taking any other necessary legal means.
The resolution was approved before an audience of about 200 people packed into the meeting room and adjoining lobby and spilling out the Wilkes County Office Building front door to the parking lot. It was the largest crowd in memory at a Wilkes commissioner meeting.
Eddie Settle, chairman of the commissioners, said in an interview that the resolution stemmed from numerous elected county boards in Virginia passing resolutions supporting gun ownership rights. He said he and County Attorney Tony Triplett prepared it, using similar documents approved elsewhere in parts of the resolution.
The elected boards of nearly all 95 counties and many municipalities in Virginia recently approved resolutions declaring their jurisdictions “Second Amendment sanctuaries” in response to gun control laws being considered by the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature. The resolutions vary by counties, but most pledge to oppose any “unconstitutional restrictions” on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
Monday night, the county commissioners in neighboring Surry County approved a resolution declaring Surry a second amendment sanctuary. The Wilkes and Surry boards are among a handful of county boards in North Carolina that have approved resolutions supporting the Second Amendment.
Settle announced near the start of the Wilkes board meeting that he was making an addition to the agenda – “a Resolution Authorizing Protection of Second Amendment Rights in Wilkes County.” When he asked if any commissioner objected, a motion to add the resolution to the agenda was made and unanimously approved.
Before Settle read the resolution, he briefly recounted how the Patriot militia from Wilkes and Surry counties defeated a Tory force under Major Patrick Ferguson in the American Revolution after Ferguson threatened to “lay fire” to them in 1780.
“They didn’t take hoes and shovels and go down there and fight ‘em and kill him (Ferguson)…. They took the best weaponry that each person had at that time, he said.
“They went to King’s Mountain and won the battle and I think that sums it up about the Second Amendment…. They died for that and they’ve been dying ever since for our rights and to protect the Second Amendment.”
Settle also noted that on March 1, 2013, the Wilkes commissioners approved a resolution supporting the right to bear arms.
That resolution said the board “recognizes the role of reasonable governmental oversight of the firearms trade and the ability of the government to restrict possession of firearms from those who have committed crimes and those with mental illness….”
The 2013 resolution also said, “This board at the same time recognizes the unassailable right of the law-abiding citizen to purchase, own and possess firearms, free from unreasonable restraint and regulation.”
On Jan. 20, 2016, the Wilkes commissioners repealed a county ordinance prohibiting concealed handgun permit holders from having guns on county government property. The Wilkes commissioners enacted the ordinance in 1995, after the legislature made it legal for people with permits to carry concealed handguns.
“If you’ve got your gun tonight (at the meeting), you’re perfectly legal. In some neighboring counties, you can’t do that, but you can in this county,” said Settle.
He added, “I wanted everybody to know that we have taken action twice since this board has been together in the last seven years. With that said, folks, we’ve got nothing but a sovereign God and His promise, a Constitution and a republic that flag stands for. That’s all we’ve got.”
Settle then read the resolution, which began by saying, “It is acknowledged that the right of individuals to keep and bear arms is under attack in the United States of America by elected officials from many levels of government.”
It noted that the Constitution and court rulings have upheld the right to keep and bear arms and this right is necessary for defense of self and others, protection of liberty and preservation of the Constitution.
The resolution said “many Americans believe that Second Amendment rights are ‘God-given’ rights and that it is a law of nature that every creature can defend its life from threats.”
It asked the state legislature and Congress to “preserve, uphold and protect the rights of all citizens to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution” and reject any provision or law that may infringe on this.
The resolution concluded by stating that Wilkes County government won’t allocate funds, employees, facilities or other resources to enforce anything that infringes on this right.
When Settle opened the floor for comments by others on the board, Commissioner Gary Blevins said, “I don’t think we’ve got anything to worry about as long as Chris Shew is Wilkes sheriff. He’s not going to take anyone’s guns.”
Blevins said he and Shew were at a political meeting years ago when someone asked Shew what he would do if the government told him to confiscate everyone’s guns in Wilkes. When Blevins asked Shew to repeat how he answered the question, Shew said, “I don’t know anybody that has any guns.”
Blevins said he hunts, is proud about carrying a pistol most of the time and would die for his Second Amendment rights. “I’m 65 years old and at this point I’d have to draw a line in the sand, as Trump says.”
Commissioner David Gambill said he believes all of the commissioners have concealed carry permits.
Commissioner Keith Elmore said the crowd for the meeting was the largest he had seen in his 16 years as a commissioner. Elmore said he would love to see the room packed for all meetings because of the important matters addressed. “I think it’s important for you to express to us how you feel about the issues.”
Commissioner Brian Minton thanked everyone for coming and said he supports the Second Amendment rights.
The meeting ended with applause.
Gun control measures being considered in Virginia include:
• “red flag laws” that would allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others;
• universal background checks whenever any gun is acquired, except from immediate family members, through inheritance or at antique sales;
• making it a felony to sell, make, buy or possess assault weapons and certain magazines;
• restoring Virginia’s one-handgun-per-month purchase limit.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said this week that there are false rumors about his gun control agenda. He said it doesn’t include door-to-door confiscation of firearms, National Guard deployment to enforce gun control laws or cutting off electricity of Virginians for gun confiscation.
All of the Wilkes commissioners are Republicans.