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Wise gun control opponents rally before Richmond trip

Mike Still • Jan 11, 2020 at 6:44 PM

APPALACHIA — About 300 Wise County residents gathered Friday to buy raffle tickets for firearms and to cheer opponents of proposed gun control legislation before a Jan. 20 trip to show the General Assembly their stance.

The Wise County Patriots Group, which organized the rally in the former Appalachia High School auditorium, also held a raffle for a 9 mm pistol, a .22-caliber rifle and a Mossberg shotgun as several people lined up to buy tickets to raise funds for buses to take demonstrators to Richmond.

Appalachia Town Councilman Travis Anderson told the audience that the Patriots Group is now comprised of him, county resident Clarence Peters, Norton Vice Mayor Mark Caruso, county resident Ralph Gilley and former Wise town policeman Aaron Cathel. Other elected officials from the Board of Supervisors and Wise joined the audience, including Supervisors J.H. Rivers and Bob Adkins and Wise Second Amendment sanctuary resolution author and Town Council member Laura Taylor-Baugh.

Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp III led off the rally’s speakers with an attack on various gun control and criminal justice measures on the General Assembly’s plate for the 60-day legislative session.

“Over the course of the last few weeks, months, we have seen, in my opinion, an assault on our freedoms,” Slemp said. He pointed to bills that would bring back parole, raise the dollar threshold for felony larceny offenses and “disarm” law-abiding gun owners.

“They’re going to undermine law enforcement and deprive victims of their voice,” Slemp said. “Thieves don’t need a cost of living increase. Free men need not ask permission to keep and bear arms to protect themselves, their families, their neighbors and their friends.”

Caruso told the audience that a Friday Kingsport Times News article on his militia resolution passed Tuesday by City Council was a “smear campaign.” He also called University of Virginia law professor and constitutional and local government expert Richard Schragger a “leftist UVA lawyer.”

Caruso’s resolution, which expressed the council’s intent to support setting up procedures for the city to muster the unorganized militia, cited two sections of Virginia’s Title 44 militia law that define what the unorganized militia is: all able-bodied citizens and persons declaring intent of U.S. citizenship age 16-55.

Schragger, who read the city resolution before commenting to the Times News, said its provisions supporting a city-ordered muster of the militia conflicted with other provisions of the law. The governor is the only person authorized to muster any state militia forces, Schragger said, and administrative and organizational militia control falls under the state Adjutant General’s Office.

Caruso criticized the law, saying that a local government should be able to call individuals or the Lions Club to assist in an emergency.

Caruso also called on the audience to support a campaign petition for Alexandria resident and veteran Daniel Gade to become the Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner in 2021.

If the General Assembly passes gun control legislation, Caruso said, “we have to make the commonwealth’s attorney, the state police, the sheriff’s department and local law enforcement understand their allegiance is to the Constitution. … Law enforcement has to have our back as we peacefully refuse to comply.

“If none of you are registered to vote, dagblast it, be a soldier and vote,” Caruso told the audience. “These socialists and fascists are not defeated once they’re voted out. They come back again like a virus.”

Caruso asked audience members going to Richmond to “leave your long guns and body armor at home” and to “keep your social media clean.”

Patriots Group member Peters compared owning an AR-15 to the sword mentioned in Luke 22:36.

“If you don’t have your sword, which is the AR-15 of today, buy one,” Peters said.

Peters said people planning to join the Richmond trip should meet at the Virginia-Kentucky Regional Shopping Center parking lot on U.S. Route 58 in Norton around 11 p.m. on Jan. 19. He advised travelers to use the buddy system and “watch each other’s back” while in Richmond.

Norton Pepsi-Cola distributorship owner Pedro Hunnicutt will host a hospitality room at a Richmond hotel for the group, Peters said.

Anderson also told the audience to look at proposed House Bill 177, which would place Virginia in the National Popular Vote Compact. In a presidential election, Virginia would agree to award its electoral votes to the presidential ticket that receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The compact becomes effective only when a number of states possessing a majority of the U.S. electoral votes signs onto the agreement.

“We’ve got to be the sheepdogs because the wolf is at the door,” Anderson said.

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