No Quakers were present Thursday to support their earlier request that the Jefferson County Commission adopt a resolution calling for “all reasonable restrictions on sales of firearms.”
The gun-rights side, however, was well-represented, with about 20 men and a handful of women who spoke on behalf of their “constitutional rights.”
The commissioners, following their own debate after closing off public comments, voted 3-2 to drop the resolution.
Commissioners Patsy Noland, Walt Pellish and Jane Tabb carried the majority, while Commissioners Lyn Widmyer and Dale Manuel voted for the document.
The commissioners requested extra sheriff’s deputies, who stood outside the meeting room during the session.
John Case of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., a member of the Quaker denomination that meets Sunday mornings in Shepherdstown, W.Va., presented the group’s proposal during public comments at the commission’s March 21 meeting.
Case didn’t show up for Thursday’s session because he didn’t know the proclamation was on the agenda.
“They were supposed to let me know,” he said in a phone interview later.
The Quakers’ resolution claimed that gun violence causes “repeated and senseless deaths; gun sales involve large volumes of assault weapons suitable only for warfare killing ... not for hunting; magazines of more than 10 rounds serve no legitimate civilian need; background checks will not interfere with the legitimate use of firearms by hunters and sportsmen.
“The level of gun violence in the United States has become a recurrent, unacceptable and unnecessary threat to the most fundamental rights of our citizens.”
Nine of the 20 or so audience members spoke against the resolution.
Reiterated were many of the now-familiar comments of gun-rights supporters — protect Second Amendment rights; enforce existing gun laws; the Second Amendment has nothing to do with hunting; it was written to prevent tyranny; Nazi leader Adolph Hitler came to power only after guns were taken from the German people.
Among the speakers were representatives of gun-rights groups, including Chris Anders, state coordinator for the West Virginia Campaign for Liberty, and Arthur Thomm, vice president of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League.
Longtime Jefferson County resident Janet Robinson said she has guns for safety, protection and hunting.
“Limiting the sale of guns is an infringement on our rights,” she said.
Regina Smith said the Quakers’ resolution was vague, has blanket limitations and “is a little bit tricky.”
Ken Nowel came to the microphone wearing an orange hunting jacket. He called the resolution “wrongheaded. The reason for the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was because it was an undefended shooting gallery. When Adam Lanza heard the police sirens coming, he decided it was time to quit and he shot himself. We need a well-armed populace to reduce the violence.”
Tabb voted against the resolution based on constitutional concerns, she said.
“It’s being debated in Congress,” she said. “This is not the arena for it.”
Pellish won a round of loud applause from the audience when he said the resolution “was way out of line. It has no place here.”
Noland, who tried unsuccessfully to get the resolution removed from the agenda, said county commission meetings are not the proper venue for such debates.
Widmyer said she supports the resolution because it calls for universal background checks, ending sales of large ammunition magazines and banning assault weapons.
Manuel said he was surprised that the resolution “drew this kind of outcry. It’s only a resolution. I don’t understand all this rhetoric. I can’t understand why anyone is opposed to background checks to keep guns from the mentally unstable and criminals.”