The capture of Virginia’s legislature by Democrats, who also command the executive branch, has unleashed a spate of bills to criminalize millions of law-abiding gun owners and send them to the penitentiary. The most radical proposal, Senate Bill 16, would make it a felony to possess an ordinary semiautomatic rifle with harmless features like an adjustable shoulder stock, a flare launcher, and a muzzle device to reduce kick.

Reflecting trends in states as diverse as Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, and Washington, where politicians have declared a war against gun owners, about half of Virginia’s counties have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries. County governments and elected sheriffs pledge not to enforce unconstitutional diktats that violate the right to keep and bear arms.

Sanctuary places are the darling of “progressive” jurisdictions determined to hide and harbor criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities. Progressives now accuse officials of being “vigilantes” for seeking to protect American citizens from imprisonment for exercising their constitutional rights.

Spearheading the war on Virginia gun owners is Gov. Ralph Northam, best known for his gig in blackface or Klan attire, and for calmly endorsing post-delivery abortion, that is, infanticide. To divert attention from the backlash, he is moving to criminalize all sorts of innocent conduct that has been lawful in the Commonwealth since Jamestown was settled in 1607.

It’s as if “the Redcoats are coming” again. Northam’s counterpart in 1774 was Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor, who took measures to disarm “disloyal” Virginians led by Patrick Henry. The patriots were arming and organizing themselves into independent companies to protect their rights.

None other than George Washington formed the Fairfax Independent Militia Company. “Threat’ned with the Destruction of our Civil-rights, & Liberty,” wrote George Mason, the volunteers pledged that “we will, each of us, constantly keep by us” a musket, six pounds of gunpowder, and 20 pounds of lead.

That was a lot of ammo. There’s a parallel here to the “large capacity” magazines that Northam wants to ban. And there’s an irony that Fairfax County is now the center of the blue wave that supports Dunmoresque gun bans.

The rest is history. In 1775 the Redcoats marched to seize colonists’ arms at Lexington and Concord and the Americans repulsed them. The inhabitants of Boston were ordered to turn in their guns, which were seized by British General Gage. The Continental Congress cited this perfidy in the Declaration of Causes of Taking Up Arms.

Nothing like that will happen today. Counties that have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries make clear their dedication to use all lawful means to protect their constitutional rights. Law-enforcement authorities have scarce resources and must choose how to allocate them. Work to solve murders and robberies, or track down gun owners because they have rifles with those oh-so-deadly pistol grips or adjustable stocks? That’s a no-brainer.

But those who support filling the prisons with law-abiding citizens just because they have, for instance, a rifle that will also shoot flares—which is nothing more than a distress signal—should remember our history. The Second Amendment was adopted to prevent exactly those kinds of infringements.

A Second Amendment sanctuary shouldn’t be any more controversial than a First Amendment sanctuary. Imagine if the governor signed a law banning books he didn’t like, then sent police to search houses to confiscate them and arrest their owners, who would be charged with a felony. He could then have a book burning alongside of his massive gun melting. Sanctuary that, anyone?

The Bill of Rights was intended to inform the ordinary citizens of their rights. Its meaning is not a monopoly of the governmental entities whose powers it was intended to limit. Supporters of Second Amendment sanctuaries are only following this historical understanding.

Virginia’s own Judge St. George Tucker said it best in his 1803 treatise, the first ever published on the Constitution, as follows: “A bill of rights may be considered, not only as intended to give law, and assign limits to a government about to be established, but as giving information to the people. By reducing speculative truths to fundamental laws, every man of the meanest capacity and understanding may learn his own rights, and know when they are violated...”

That’s exactly what Second Amendment sanctuaries are all about.