By Stefanie Jackson – Exmore is officially a second amendment sanctuary since the town council adopted a resolution Monday night declaring its opposition to any infringement of law-abiding citizens’ right to keep and bear arms.
“The town of Exmore and the police officers will not engage in unconstitutional law,” said Police Chief Angelo DiMartino, who was answered by applause from the audience that packed the town hall.
He is opposed to a bill that was introduced in the Virginia General Assembly this year, Senate Bill 1748, which would redefine assault weapons and outlaw many pistols, rifles, and shotguns.
According to current Virginia law, an assault weapon is a gun with a magazine that holds more than 20 rounds, but the new bill would change the definition to a gun with a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds.
DiMartino displayed an unloaded 9 mm pistol with a 15-round magazine and a threaded barrel for attaching a suppressor.
“This would be a Class 6 felony. This would be considered an assault weapon because it has a detachable magazine and a threaded barrel,” DiMartino said.
“My wife purchased this legally. I do have a suppressor that I thread on that is registered,” he said.
“In essence, just purchasing and having this weapon legally – that I’ve had for years now – I would be charged with a Class 6 felony. My career is over. I can’t be a police officer,” DiMartino explained.
The law could also apply to firearms passed down from one family generation to another or given as gifts, he added.
“It’s hard to stand by and watch something that’s potentially unconstitutional take the rights away from the citizens,” DiMartino said.
He read from the oath that new police officers take: “I do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I will faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties incumbent upon me.”
“They don’t swear to me. They don’t swear to the town of Exmore,” DiMartino said. “They swear to that constitution – both of them.”
He referred to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
That affirmation is repeated verbatim in Virginia’s constitution.
U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 242, “makes it a crime … to willfully deprive a person of the right or privilege protected by the Constitution of the United States,” DiMartino added.
He concluded with a quote from the 14th Amendment: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The town council unanimously approved the resolution by a roll-call vote.
By passing the resolution, the councilmen pledged that the town will neither use public funds to restrict Exmore citizens’ Second Amendment rights nor aid federal or state agencies in restricting those rights.
Town Manager Robert Duer cautioned, “we haven’t done a whole lot,” because Virginia follows the Dillon Rule, which limits the authority of local governments.
“You did a lot, to us,” one citizen said.
“That’s what we’re here for. Thank you, all,” Duer answered.
During his report, Duer asked the town council to consider if any of Exmore’s ordinances need to be updated and “we’ll work on them.”
But he doesn’t want the town to have too many ordinances to enforce.
“The smaller the government, the better the government is,” Duer said.
Exmore’s government is “just fine. It’s reactive and it serves the citizens of our town.”