GALLIPOLIS — Area residents gathered in the Gallia Courthouse Thursday to show support for the right to bear arms in light of a regional movement seeking to establish Second Amendment sanctuaries.
Area resident Tony Thompson addressed Gallia Commissioners, Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin and Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren along with a crowd of supporters. People first gathered in the first floor commissioner meeting room before being asked to the larger second floor meeting room due to the number of individuals who appeared.
“This is something we’ve got to get ahead of because I think too many of our rights are being infringed on at this point,” said Thompson of what he believes is government overreach into American rights to own firearms. “We need to get ahead of it and not let it get in our backdoor… I got in touch with Sheriff Champlin several weeks ago and wanted to keep law enforcement in the loop…”
“The (elected officials) here have taken an oath as well as I have,” said Thompson. “The reason for the visit here is to hold our oath that we have taken (to defend the U.S. Constitution). It shouldn’t be taken lightly. If anybody has taken the oath, it gets inside of your heart. It’s something that you live and die by. At least, I do…”
“I think what started a firestorm were the events in Virginia and folks have been watching that closely,” said Thompson.
Thompson said he felt many “for a long time” have had growing concerns with actions to restrict guns or expand gun control laws across the country, despite recent controversy with proposed “red flag” legislative actions in Virginia.
Red flag laws have been recognized as gun control measures permitting police or family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who may be considered a danger to others or themselves. Under such laws, a court could potentially extend the duration of a firearm separation depending on circumstances reviewed.
“All we’re wanting to do is to ask our elected officials and leaders to uphold the Constitution,” said Thompson. “For the most part, law-abiding citizens want to be left alone. Typically, those folks who are left alone get out of the politics part of it and they don’t see what’s coming down or going on with it and before they know it, it’s at their backdoor. That’s what I’m here to ask you folks for, to uphold your oath and help protect people.”
Thompson presented the commissioners with resolution language he would like them to consider passing.
“It’s enlightening to hear your comments,” said Commissioner Harold Montgomery. “Mr. Thompson has presented us with a proposed Second Amendment sanctuary ordinance. We will review this and have discussions with the prosecutor and the sheriff. I’ve had some calls in the past few days asking if we were going to address this and we had discussed it prior and planned on discussing further today.”
Montgomery said commissioners would hold another meeting this coming Thursday at noon at the courthouse surrounding the proposed resolution.
“We don’t think that it can be here, but it is here and is coming here,” said Holdren to Thompson and the crowd of expanded gun control efforts. “You say you’re one small voice, but one small voice has got a room of people, today. You have the attention of your elected officials locally as well as on the state level. I think it’s important that we put a stake in the ground next week. So when none of us are in office, people will look back and say this was where we were and this is where we’re not going to move from. I think that’s important.”
Holdren said he had done some research to see what others counties had decided regarding Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions and was drafting something he felt “had teeth and meaning” and represents the interests of county residents.
“I would echo the sentiments of Prosecutor Holdren,” said Champlin. “Mr. Thompson and I have had the opportunity to talk a couple times and shared information and I’ve funneled that information to Prosecutor Holdren and (addressed) him with some stuff that’s going on in other counties. I’m an elected office holder but I try to be that voice to funnel what folks from the public have been sharing as their sentiments. I share those same sentiments. I’m an avid hunter and I believe in gun rights and I believe in our Constitution and our laws that were built to support and protect good people. As we see, almost daily now, bad people are being stopped by good people with guns. All we got to do is look to the last church shooting in Texas and try to draw a conclusion of how bad would that have been had we not had a good guy with a gun in that church.”
Champlin referenced an incident at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, on December 29, 2019, where a man was shot by a member of a volunteer church security team after the same man shot and killed two others and wounded another.
Thompson said he was pleased and thankful to see the number of supporters for his request despite knowing few of them. Word had spread of the event via social media as well as word of mouth.
Regional news outlets have reported similar movement actions in Kentucky and West Virginia.
Dean Wright is a staff writer with Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at 740-446-2342.