The Virginia National Guard released a statement on Friday in response to questions about whether they could be deployed to enforce Democratic lawmakers' gun control agenda.
"We have received multiple questions regarding proposed legislation for the 2020 General Assembly session and the authority of the Governor of Virginia to employ the Virginia National Guard in a law enforcement role," Maj. Gen. Timothy Williams, the Adjutant General of the Virginia National Guard, said in a statement.
"We understand and respect the passion people feel for the U.S. Constitution and 2nd Amendment rights. We will not speculate about the possible use of the Virginia National Guard," he added.
The Virginia National Guard was forced to respond after Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) suggested Thursday that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) could deploy the National Guard to enforce future gun control measures.
"Ultimately, I'm not the governor, but the governor may have to nationalize the National Guard to enforce the law. That's his call, because I don't know how serious these counties are and how severe the violations of law will be. But that's obviously an option he has," McEachin told the Washington Examiner.
His comments were made in response to 75 Virginia counties preemptively declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries in anticipation of future gun control legislation.
Northam said on Wednesday that there would not be retaliation against those counties, but warned of "consequences."
"There's not going to be retaliation. That's not what I'm about. I'm about making Virginia safer," Northam said. "If we have constitutional laws on the books and law enforcement officers are not enforcing those laws on the books, then there are going to be consequences, but I'll cross that bridge if and when we get to it."
But, the question remains: Could Northam legally use the Virginia National Guard to enforce gun control laws?
"Until nationalized, it's a creature of the state. So that's what leads me to believe that, yes, the governor can activate the National Guard to enforce even a state law," Gary Solis, a Georgetown University professor and military law expert, told the Examiner.
Amy Swearer, a legal policy analyst, agreed with Solis, however saying that such an action would be unprecedented. She told the Examiner that historically, National Guard troops have been deployed to "enforce the rights of citizens when they were being infringed upon" — not to enforce laws that Second Amendment advocates see as tyrannical.