The editors of the Washington Post are so convinced that the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is nothing to worry about that they’re now running stories and opinion pieces almost every day attacking the grassroots effort sweeping Virginia and other states.
The paper’s latest diatribe comes courtesy of Mary B. McCord, a former acting assistant attorney general for national security who is currently the legal director of Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection. Now, you might think the legal director of a think tank devoted to protecting the Constitution would be all on board with counties and cities vowing not to enforce laws that violate the Constitution, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. At all.
Overblown alarm over reasonable gun-control laws proposed in statehouses across the country has led to a movement by various local governments declaring themselves Second Amendment “sanctuaries” — vowing to establish local jurisdictions where state gun laws that they view as unconstitutional will not be enforced. These resolutions, to the extent they conflict with state law, lack legal effect: In Tazewell County, Va., for example, the “Sanctuary Resolution” approved by the board of supervisors purports to prohibit any county employee from enforcing, and any county funds from being used for the enforcement of, new state gun laws the county deems unconstitutional. But Virginia state law prohibits local governments from enacting ordinances or resolutions that are inconsistent with state laws and, more directly, specifically prohibits local governments from regulating firearms.The resolution, and others like it, demonstrate how their proponents operate on a fundamental misunderstanding of the rights afforded Americans by the Second Amendment and, importantly, the limitations on those rights. And how they’ve spurred extremists who want to stand up local militias to engage in armed rebellion against the state — action that isn’t just dangerous but that also runs counter to the Constitution.
Proponents of Second Amendment sanctuary cities and counties largely ignore the teaching of Heller, instead pronouncing any gun-control legislation unconstitutional, whether it requires backgrounds checks or a waiting period, raises the legal age for gun ownership, bans bump-stock devices that allow for rapid firing, prohibits weapons in government buildings, or outlaws assault-style rifles. Rather than engaging in a bill-by-bill discussion of proposed legislation, these advocates whip up hysteria by painting with a broad brush, arguing that all gun-control legislation is part of a conspiracy of liberals who “want to take your guns.”
Using this disingenuous logic, proponents have convinced cities and counties in Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Illinois, Colorado, Florida, Virginia and elsewhere that they should resist laws enacted by duly-elected legislators upon their own declarations — not those of the courts — that such laws violate the Second Amendment. This not only misunderstands the Second Amendment, but it also misunderstands the limited powers of local jurisdictions, which exist solely based on authorities conferred by state law. State constitutions, statutes and common law generally affirm the “supremacy” of federal and state law, meaning that local jurisdictions and state law, meaning that local jurisdictions are preempted from enacting conflicting ordinances and resolutions. And in no state do local governments have the prerogative to declare a state or federal law unconstitutional without involving the courts.
“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT BE KNOWN that the Caroline County Sheriff hereby declares Caroline County and the Town of Bowling Green, Virginia, as a “Second Amendment Sanctuary”, and
That the Caroline County Sheriff hereby declares its intent to oppose any infringement on the right of lawabiding citizens to keep and bear arms using such legal means as may be expedient, including, without limitation, court action, and
That the Caroline County Sheriff hereby expresses his intent that public funds not be used to restrict the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Caroline County and the Town of Bowling Green, or to aid federal or state agencies in the restriction of said rights, and
The undersigned Caroline County Sheriff hereby declares Caroline County as a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” on December 10, 2019 and the Town of Bowling Green as a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” as set forth above was made on January 2, 2020.
These Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions are not about anarchy or lawlessness, as McCord suggests. They’re about using every avenue available to ensure that the civil rights of residents are not violated. Court challenges are very much a part of the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement, despite what McCord wants readers to believe.
I assume that Mary B. McCord is a bright person and a good attorney, but as I’ve just shown, she doesn’t have a very good argument. Second Amendment Sanctuary communities aren’t trying to do anything illegal or untoward. In Virginia, pro-Second Amendment sheriffs and commonwealth’s attorneys have the example of local prosecutors who’ve said they will no longer be enforcing the state’s drug laws banning possession of cannabis for personal use, or the state’s Attorney General, who decided a few years ago that he didn’t believe the state’s ban on gay marriage was worth defending in court. McCord doesn’t address either of those issues, likely because she doesn’t have a good answer to them.
Anti-gun politicians and activists weren’t expecting the wave of Second Amendment sanctuaries to sweep across Virginia, and they believed that once Attorney General Mark Herring issued his opinion that these resolutions have “no legal effect,” there wouldn’t be any more votes in favor of resolutions. Instead, we’ve seen the number of 2A Sanctuaries grow to at least 118 counties, cities, and towns across the state, including Virginia Beach and Chincoteague on Monday evening. This lawful, legal, and peaceful movement continues to grow, while gun control activists are simply growing desperate to stop it.