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Norton councilman bringing gun rights sanctuary resolution to agenda Tuesday

Mike Still • Nov 29, 2019 at 8:25 AM

NORTON — A growing list of Second Amendment sanctuary calls will include Norton on Tuesday, when a city council member will present his own for consideration.

Councilman Mark Caruso, a tourism business owner and licensed gun dealer, hopes to see council pass a resolution similar to what has been passed by nine Virginia county boards of supervisors in recent weeks.

Caruso announced his intent on Wednesday on his business’ website and Facebook page, along with a letter from Wise County and Norton Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp III.

“I encourage all patriots who oppose further restrictions on our civil rights to attend the Norton City Council meeting on the 3rd of December to express your views on the subject,” Caruso wrote in a post accompanying an image of Slemp’s letter.

Slemp, in the letter responding to a Nov. 22 phone call from Caruso, said he and the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Legislative Watch committee are tracking legislation that would reinstate parole for violent offenders, relax state abortion restrictions, abolish the death penalty, decriminalize some drug offenses and affect gun ownership rights.

“I will continue to oppose those proposals,” Slemp wrote. “Upon taking office, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I strongly support the Second Amendment which provides that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Noting that his focus as county prosecutor is “ to investigate and prosecute crimes that present real threats to public safety, such as substance abuse, drug trafficking, crimes of violence, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect, elder abuse and exploitation, larceny and burglaries,” Slemp said,” That is where my focus will remain.”

Caruso said on Wednesday that his measure could be passed during Tuesday’s scheduled council meeting because it is a resolution and not an ordinance. He said he saw no conflict of interest in his role as a gun dealer in presenting the measure.

“I find it is my constitutional duty as a council member, businessman, gun owner and a retired soldier,” Caruso said.

Asked about his reference to “patriots” supporting his resolution, Caruso said that opponents of a sanctuary resolution “might consider themselves patriots.”

“A patriot is someone who will support and defend the Constitution,” Caruso said. “I believe that the legislation that has been submitted is unconstitutional.”

Caruso said his resolution is in response to a package of gun control measures proposed to the General Assembly in the summer by Gov. Ralph Northam. While rejected by a Republican-controlled legislature, many of the proposals are expected to be on the Democrat-controlled legislature’s agenda in January.

Slemp on Wednesday said he has received several calls “expressing concern” about the General Assembly’s upcoming gun control legislative agenda.

“I understand it’s an issue that people are passionate about,” Slemp said. “The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that it is a fundamental individual right. Those who feel passionately about it should call their state legislators.”

City Council meets Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Norton Municipal Building.

The full text of Slemp’s letter can be found at https://www.facebook.com/pathfindersoutdooradventures/photos/a.268104220048935/1209766702549344/?type=3&theater.

Letter from Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp III to Norton City Council member Mark Caruso, Nov. 22:

“As you may know, I am an active member of the Legislative Watch Committee of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys. Our committee monitors closely all legislation as it moves through the General Assembly and I will continue to use my influence on this committee to voice opposition to proposals that threaten public safety and our individual rights. I am very concerned about several bills proposed for this upcoming session, including legislation which would revoke “Truth in Sentencing by reinstating parole for violent offenders, abandon our dedication to the lives and rights of the unborn by relaxing abortion restrictions, abolish the death penalty, encourage drug abuse by decriminalizing drug offenses and those proposals that will affect our Second Amendment rights. I will continue to oppose those proposals.”

“Upon taking office, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I strongly support the Second Amendment which provides that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” As you well know, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized this as a fundamental individual right. My hope is that common sense will prevail in Richmond this session and, if it does not, I am confident that our Courts will strike down unconstitutional infringements on law abiding citizens’ rights.”

“Ultimately, as Commonwealth’s Attorney, my focus is to investigate and prosecute crimes that present real threats to public safety, such as substance abuse, drug trafficking, crimes of violence, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect, elder abuse and exploitation, larceny and burglaries. That is where my focus will remain.”

“In the meantime, I urge you to contact members of the General Assembly to voice your concerns.”

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