Perhaps we should call the action taken on Tuesday by the Henry County Board of Supervisors a shot in the dark: not because that cliché is literally correct but because the supervisors were far removed from the public light when they took aim at a sensitive public issue regarding guns.
If you were out of touch this week because of the holiday – a point to mention further — and missed the news, during their meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday, your six supervisors heard a suggestion that the county should join an emerging trend of declaring itself a sanctuary for the Second Amendment.
And, after hearing this suggestion, they asked their administrator to take a few minutes to draft an ordinance to be considered at their closed session following that meeting and then perhaps acted upon in their public meeting at 6 p.m.
Let’s pause to say this: On face value, to consider such a referendum is not a misfire. Many of you are passionate about gun rights and afraid of losing some of them. You may want to have your elected leaders reinforce your views. We grant that point.
The supervisors thought so. They took the words drafted quickly (seriously?) by Administrator Tim Hall and passed them unanimously just a few minutes after 6. The entire idea went from resident’s suggestion to words to vote in less than 3 hours.
When was the last time you saw a legislative body act that quickly about anything?
Right. And the supervisors shouldn’t have done so this time, either.
Obviously this was a too-familiar orchestrated process that has so many problems that they insult both the public and the principles of good governance.
The idea for this ordinance was introduced by Blackberry resident Josh Barnhart, who brought along a few dozen of his friends to create an appearance of overwhelming public support for this measure.
Barnhart had been listed on the agenda as “Matters Presented by the Public,” but you had to go down 15 pages into the agenda packet (which the public typically wouldn’t see) to note that Barnhart would address the Second Amendment.
This is where the Bulletin should take a bullet. We should have noticed this language and started asking questions. We were aware of what had happened in Patrick and Pittsylvania counties. We should have told you. In this case, we failed. Maybe because we didn’t think the supervisors would go off half-cocked on such an important topic.
But they did, and they failed you, too.
They should have made sure you knew what they would consider and how they might act, to alert you to attend this meeting or voice your concerns. Something tells us they didn’t want to hear from you because that made the final outcome so much easier to accomplish.
So on two days before Thanksgiving, when the public’s attention so obviously would be averted or diluted – when many legislative bodies in fact would not have bothered to meet — and with no easily observed public notice, the supervisors moved.
They followed their rules closely. They barely discussed the issue. They did not hold a public hearing. They did not care that there were residents in the room who might have dissented.
The motion was called, and all six agreed.
They stood up for the Second Amendment but not for the First.
We will leave the adjectives to describe this action to you, but we will offer this:
In a time when politicians so seldom take aim at doing right ahead of serving self, the Henry County Board of Supervisors has injured its image with a very much self-inflicted wound.