Town Council member Bob Hartley broke ranks in the 4-1 vote to adopt the resolution, three days before a group of county and city residents head to Richmond to join a protest against a package of gun control measures making its way through the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
Hartley said after the meeting that he supported some of the measures being considered in Richmond, including expanded background checks for gun sales.
“I think the laws have to be changed,” Hartley said. “I’m a gun owner myself but, if you’ve seen what a bullet can do to an animal or a child, they don’t get up and walk away like in the movies.”
Hartley said that existing Virginia limits on background checks “protect the criminals” in cases such as sales at gun shows or sales between individuals.
Councilmember Travis Anderson, who has supported a similar resolution approved in December by the county Board of Supervisors, told council and an audience of about 20 town residents after the resolution passed that the bills under consideration in Richmond covered more than gun rights.
Anderson said legislation included measures to change how Virginia would apportion its electoral votes to presidential candidates. On gun control issues, he pointed to measures expanding how guns can be confiscated from people deemed by courts to be a danger to themselves, requiring people carrying guns in cars to keep them in lock boxes and to expand mandatory background checks before weapons sales.
Referring to a planned Richmond trip Monday organized by the Wise County Patriots Group, Anderson said, “We’re going peacefully. We’re wanting to meet and talk with our legislators … We’re not going up there waving rebel flags.”
Governor Ralph Northam earlier this week ordered a ban on all weapons in the Capitol Square area surrounding the Capitol building and the General Assembly’s offices, citing information of possible violence during a demonstration of gun control opponents expected to be in the tens of thousands of protesters.
The FBI on Thursday announced the arrest of three suspects believed to be headed to
Richmond for the Monday protest with intent to incite racial conflict.
“I hope you do some good, but there has to be some regulations on guns,” said Mayor Teddie Collins, who voted for the resolution with Anderson, Vice Mayor Chase Christian and council member Susan Barnett. Collins called some of the General Assembly legislation “stupid.”
In other business, Town Attorney Michael Abbott said a proposed boundary adjustment agreement between Appalachia and Wise County should be presented to the county Circuit Court sometime in February for approval.
The adjustment, which supervisors and council have ratified, would place a former Westmoreland Coal Co. mine and processing plant site and land around the town’s Powell River Trail inside town limits.
Brian Falin from the county economic development office also announced that the town will see a new tenant for the former Save A Lot supermarket site. G.W. Clisso, who operates a salad dressing plant in Pound, will be moving his operation to Appalachia.
Falin said Clisso’s operation, which now employs 15 people and supplies a line of salad dressings to 400 stores in the region, could expand by another 10 to 15 jobs and supply products to up to 650 stores later this year.