Attorney General Mark Herring issued an advisory opinion Friday concluding the resolutions passed by localities across Virginia — including Halifax County — declaring themselves exempt from new gun safety laws that the General Assembly may enact have “no legal effect.”
Additionally, he concludes that localities and local constitutional officers “cannot nullify state laws” and must follow gun violence prevention measures passed by the General Assembly.
Sadly, Virginia has felt the effects of the gun violence epidemic that continues to plague our country. Over 10,000 Virginians have been killed by a gun since 2007. The commonwealth also has been home to numerous mass shootings including the 2019 tragedy in Virginia Beach where 12 people were killed and four others wounded, said Herring’s office when releasing a statement about the opinion.
“Attorney General Herring has continued to push for commonsense gun safety reforms in Virginia including universal background checks, a red flag law that would reduce the risk of someone in crisis hurting themselves or others and reinstating the one handgun per month law. These commonsense gun measures would make Virginia safer and reduce the number of gun injuries and fatalities,” the statement added.
“When the General Assembly passes new gun safety laws they will be enforced, and they will be followed,” Herring said. “These resolutions have no legal force, and they’re just part of an effort by the gun lobby to stoke fear.”
“What we’re talking about are the kind of commonsense gun safety laws that Virginians voted for just a few weeks ago, like universal background checks to make sure that dangerous people aren’t buying guns. Too many Virginians have lost their lives to guns and it is well past time that we enact these gun safety measures that will save lives and make our communities safer,” he added.
A few key lines from the opinion are as follows:
“…constitutional, statutory, and common law doctrines establish that these resolutions neither have the force of law nor authorize localities or local constitutional officials to refuse to follow or decline to enforce gun violence prevention measures enacted by the General Assembly.”
“By their own terms, these resolutions have no legal effect.”
“…all localities, local constitutional officers, and other local officials are obligated to follow duly enacted state laws…both the Virginia Constitution and the Code of Virginia specifically establish the supremacy of laws passed by the General Assembly over local ordinances and policies…Nor have localities been delegated any authority – either express or implied – to exempt themselves (or anyone else) from gun violence prevention statutes.”
“…neither local governments nor local constitutional officers have the authority to declare state statutes unconstitutional or decline to follow them on that basis.”