FORT GAY — A small municipality in Wayne County has become the first in West Virginia to declare itself a second amendment sanctuary.
On Friday, Fort Gay Town Council members held a special meeting to adopt a resolution making it the first town in the state to have that designation.
Mayor Joetta Hatfield said she heard several residents express concerns over gun rights recently and believed it was time for town officials to make a move.
“I felt like it was something we needed to do even though it’s mostly symbolic, but I think sent a strong message to our citizens and surrounding areas,” she said.
Earlier this month, the Putnam County Commission adopted a countywide resolution that officials say frees county residents from any law that unconstitutionally restricts gun ownership.
Putnam County was the first of West Virginia’s 55 counties to take such a step. In Virginia, about 100 counties, cities and towns have passed some version of a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution, after Virginia voters handed control of the state legislature to Democrats in an historic shift last year. Lawmakers there have introduced a number of gun control bills this year.
Cabell County Commissioner Kelli Sobonya intends to introduce a resolution during the Cabell County Commission’s Jan. 23 meeting declaring that county a sanctuary for gun rights.
The Fort Gay Town council was required to hold two special meetings for two separate readings of the ordinance before it was passed. Those occurred one week apart, and the ordinance was unanimously approved (5-0) after the second reading Friday.
“I’m very proud of my town, my citizens, my council members, and I think we made a bold statement and I hope that others will follow suit,” Hatfield said.
She added other mayors from municipalities in southern and central regions of the state already have contacted her requesting a copy of the new ordinance.
Danny Grace, mayor of the Town of Wayne, said he received a copy of the ordinance and will present it for consideration at the regular meeting Feb. 10.
Though Hatfield recognizes that the designation is more symbolic than anything else, she said the action taken has the potential to unite communities, and has seen that be true for her town.
“More than anything, I think it’s just an insurance policy for the citizens and a way to make a bold statement,” said Hatfield. “It unified our community after they saw that we [council] felt the same way they did.”