Virginia Lawmakers Shoot Down Sheriff Pay Raise Amid Gun Control Debate

February 23, 2020 Updated: February 26, 2020

The gun debate in Virginia took another turn after a Republican state senator said he was told that his attempt to pass an amendment giving the state’s sheriff departments a 3 percent raise failed because of opposition by some sheriffs to Gov. Ralph Northam’s anti-gun agenda.

When Sen. William Stanley on Feb. 20 had tried to amend the state budget with the wage increase, it was defeated—with every Democrat voting against it. Stanley alleged that after the vote, he was approached by Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, a Democrat.

“Hey Stanley, you want to know why your sheriffs didn’t get a raise? Because they came to our committees and said that they weren’t going to enforce our laws,” Saslaw said.

Stanley said he asked Saslaw which particular legislation he was alluding to, in which the majority leader responded, “gun control.”

Saslaw’s remark was an apparent reference to Second Amendment sanctuaries, a growing movement in which local officials and some sheriffs generally state that they won’t follow new gun laws they believe are unconstitutional. In Virginia, 91 of the state’s 95 counties have passed some sort of measure affirming their support for Second Amendment sanctuaries.

“I was shocked that the Democrats are now punishing our local Sheriff’s Departments (by eliminating a pay raise for them), for their choice to protect and defend our citizens’ Second Amendment rights,” Stanley wrote in a now-viral Facebook post following the incident.

“Democrats want to restrict a citizen’s right to protect themselves, but won’t pay our sheriffs’ deputies to protect Virginians,” Stanley continued. “Hypocrisy has a name.”

Saslaw didn’t immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment, but he told CBS 6 he did say those words.

“All I said was a lot of people are upset that these people come in and say they’re not going to enforce my laws,” he told the network. “That’s all.”

David Campbell, vice chairman of the Effingham County Board in Illinois, told The Epoch Times he sees the incident as a “direct attack on Virginia’s sheriffs.”

“All representatives and senators take the same oath of office as the sheriffs do,” he said via email. “The sheriffs are only doing their job and what they were sworn to do, and that is to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America.”

A handful of gun control bills have advanced swiftly through Virginia’s state legislature in recent weeks and could be passed in the coming days. Those bills include limiting handgun purchases to one per month, universal background checks on gun purchases, allowing localities to ban guns in public buildings, parks, and other areas, and a “red flag” bill that would allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from anyone deemed by a judge to be dangerous to themselves or others.

The Senate version of the state budget included a one-time, $200 bonus for sheriff’s departments during the first year and a 3 percent increase in the second year, Stanley told CBS 6. He said he wanted to replace the one-time bonus with another 3 percent increase instead, arguing that $200 was too little.

Assistant Sheriff Grant Kilgore, who serves in Wise County, Virginia, said a 3 percent raise would have raised deputies’ base pay from the poverty level.

“The fact that some senators and delegates want to punish thousands of dedicated officers to serve their own political agendas is petty and irresponsible even to their own constituents, and further goes against the oath that they swore to,” Kilgore told The Epoch Times via email.

One county sheriff in Virginia wrote on his official Facebook page that he had “a strong feeling this was going to happen.”

“The men and women who work as deputies throughout Virginia deserved a raise,” Lancaster County Sheriff Patrick McCranie said. “If the General Assembly wanted to leave Sheriffs out that would have been fine. I am sorry and feel very dejected but I will never stop fighting for our men and women. Thank you, Senator Bill Stanley for trying.”

One of the gun control bills in Virginia, an “assault weapons” ban, considered by Second Amendment advocates as the most egregious measure, was recently rejected by state lawmakers, a result of efforts by gun rights groups using a wide-reaching and comprehensive awareness strategy.

The press secretary for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam didn’t respond to a request for comment on the pay raise controversy.

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