If you live in Virginia, you’re probably aware of recent legal developments in the area of gun control that are making headlines across the state and the entire US. There are two key issues involved with the debate:
- Virginia Senate Bill 16 (SB 16), a legislative measure that aims to expand certain gun control restrictions; and,
- The recent trend among Virginia counties, cities, and towns to adopt resolutions calling themselves “2A” sanctuaries, where officials resolve to NOT enforce gun control laws.
Of course, the above descriptions are brief summaries, since the big picture of 2A sanctuary cities in the context of gun control laws is extremely complicated. Plus, as SB 16 is still at the committee stage within the legislative process, there may be modifications as it proceeds to a full vote in the Virginia General Assembly. However, you may better understand the subject matter by discussing it with a Virginia criminal defense lawyer and reviewing some answers to common questions about 2A sanctuary cities in VA.
What are the key provisions of Virginia SB 16? The entirety of the bill is lengthy, but for purposes of its connection to 2A sanctuary cities, the notable provisions are:
- An expansion on the types of guns that fall under the definition of “assault” firearms;
- A prohibition on various transactions and activities involving assault firearms, including sale, transfer, manufacture, purchase, possession, and transportation of them; and,
- A ban on carrying a shotgun that encompasses a magazine with more than seven rounds of ammunition.
How do 2A sanctuary cities fit into the picture? Many jurisdictions in Virginia have passed or are considering resolutions stating that they will not comply with laws that are deemed to infringe upon rights described in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution – including, SB 16 if enacted. These resolutions have not been legally tested or verified through the judicial system, but are more of a form of protest by local those who don’t agree with the content of the law. To date, they’ve been adopted:
- In 87 of Virginia’s 95 counties;
- By officials in 13 of 38 cities; and,
- In 21 towns within the state.
Does that mean I get a free pass in a VA 2A sanctuary city? There’s absolutely no guarantee of immunity, regardless of what law enforcement pledges to do or not do. Instead of getting embroiled in the controversy, it’s important to look at the language of the bill. Police are still tasked with enforcing the statutes enacted by the state. That means you could be arrested for violating SB 16 if it passes, just as you could be charged with any other gun laws currently on the books.
What criminal punishment could I face for violating VA SB 16? Most violations involving actions related to assault firearms will be charged as a Class 6 Felony, which is the least serious on the scale of felonies in Virginia. As a “wobbler” crime, you could face from 1-5 years in prison on the low end. If authorities decide to charge you for the misdemeanor version of the offense, you could be sentenced up to 12 months in jail.
Are there any defenses if I’m arrested for violating the law in a 2A sanctuary city? Many of the same defenses available in other crimes also apply to gun offenses in Virginia, especially protections against unlawful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. In addition, you may have an argument that SB 16 is unconstitutional as being a violation of your Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Do I need a lawyer to represent me? There’s no requirement that you hire a criminal defense attorney to advocate on your behalf, but it’s certainly recommended that you retain counsel if you’ve been arrested on gun charges. If there are constitutional questions regarding your arrest or the statute that led to it, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. Besides the potential sentence involving incarceration or fines, there are collateral consequences for a felony conviction – including a prohibition on possessing firearms going forward.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Virginia
While these answers to frequently asked questions about 2A sanctuary cities may be useful, it’s critical to retain a knowledgeable lawyer to represent your interests if you’re facing legal issues. Matters involving constitutional law are highly complex, and this is certainly true when they incorporate civil rights questions. For more information, please contact Shannon & Associates, P.C. to speak with a member of our team. We can schedule a consultation at our offices in Chesapeake or Suffolk, VA to review your circumstances.