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In North Georgia, Hundreds Rally For ‘Second Amendment Sanctuaries’

Floyd County resident Chris Ashley speaks to a crowd of gun-rights supporters in Rome, Georgia.
Floyd County resident Chris Ashley speaks to a crowd of gun-rights supporters in Rome, Georgia.
Credit Lisa Hagen / WABE
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Several hundred North Georgia residents gathered in Rome on Saturday to advocate for the creation of so-called “Second Amendment sanctuaries” in Georgia.

The Floyd County rally comes a week after a gun-rights rally in Virginia drew an estimated 22,000 supporters. But unlike in that state, gun regulation faces much steeper odds in Georgia’s Republican-dominated Legislature.

Inspired by a wave of local resolutions in Virginia aimed at resisting proposed gun-control laws there, Floyd County resident Chris Ashley organized a rally to encourage his county commissioners to follow suit.

“When I started this cause, I thought, you know what, what happened in Virginia is very likely to happen here,” Ashley, whose family owns a local construction company, told the crowd. 

In Virginia, Democrats won control of both the state House and Senate this November. The election took place in the wake of a shooting in Virginia Beach in May that left 12 dead and four injured, prompting Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to push for a package of gun regulations.

The bills advancing now include a red flag law, universal background checks and a limit of one handgun purchase a month.   

After the election, a significant wave of counties and cities in Virginia began passing resolutions declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” that would refuse to enforce gun regulations. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring soon issued an advisory opinion stating that the resolutions have “no legal effect.”

In Rome this weekend, many rally attendees expressed concerns about bills in Georgia, including a Democratic-sponsored ban on semi-automatic firearms, a category of weapons that is exceedingly common and which make up the vast majority of guns sold in the United States.

For the Republican-controlled state Legislature in Georgia to advance such a measure just three years after passing “campus carry” into law would be a stunning political shift. 

However, the Second Amendment sanctuary movement does appear to be finding support here.

A county board of commissioners declared Habersham County to be a Second Amendment sanctuary county just last week. At the weekend rally in Rome, residents from Walker and Catoosa counties advocated for similar resolutions in their areas.

“If we just sit around and do nothing and not educate people on what [Democratic lawmakers] are doing so that we can know and understand, then one of these days, that bill will pass and we won’t have sanctuary for the Second Amendment,” said Walker County bail bondsman Roy Hambrick.