I’m not surprised to see a big-city paper come out against the growing Second Amendment Sanctuary movement, even in Texas. What does surprise me is the reasoning behind the editorial board’s opposition.
So many of our public policy arguments these days get bogged down in “slippery slope” fears. Gun-rights advocates fear that today’s expanded background checks will become tomorrow’s ban on semiautomatic handguns.
But they’ve won the policy argument so far by highlighting self-defense rights, the need to target enforcement against gun-carrying criminals and the futility of most gun proposals to tackling complex problems like mass shootings.
If they start grandstanding along the lines of the Parker and Hood county resolutions, they risk giving up the very ground they’ve won.
So, the editors aren’t attacking the movement because they’re demanding more gun control laws. They just see the movement as “grandstanding” on the part of politicians. Maybe it is in some cases, but I can assure the editorial board there in Fort Worth that it certainly not the case for every county commissioner or elected official who’s supported resolutions.
First of all, the editorial doesn’t even mention the fact that there are hundreds of communities around the country that have adopted similar resolutions. This isn’t just a Texas thing. In fact it started in Illinois.
Effingham County State’s Attorney Bryan Kibler last month told a raucous crowd the origin story behind the “Second Amendment sanctuary county” movement, which began in Effingham and now includes 64 of the state’s 102 counties, counties in three other states, and nine more states in which counties are eyeing similar nonbinding measures. And as state legislators, emboldened by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, look at more gun-control measures, counties are looking at more ways to resist them.
Effingham County Board member David Campbell came to Kibler with a resolution passed by Iroquois County regarding gun rights, saying he wanted to do something similar, but questioned if they could make the language “a little more provocative,” he said in remarks posted on YouTube. He hit on the idea of alluding to some cities’ policies on cooperating with federal authorities on immigration enforcement.
“I said, well, they’re creating sanctuary counties for illegals up in Chicago, why don’t we just steal their word and make Effingham County a sanctuary county for firearms?” Kibler relayed to the crowd at a conservative gathering, to massive applause.
As the Chicago Tribune reported earlier this year, what may seem like a grandstanding stunt actually has substance to it.
When the measure passed in the county of about 35,000 last spring, it may have looked like a publicity stunt or a way to provoke Chicago officials who object to Trump administration immigration policies. But as the movement gained traction, it also has grown in substance. County sheriffs and state’s attorneys have publicly backed the cause, saying they will use their discretion to leave new gun laws unenforced.
That’s the real meat of these resolutions, and it’s a shame the editors at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram haven’t recognized that sheriffs and law enforcement agencies have a great deal of discretion when it comes to enforcing laws that are on the books. Some may choose not to arrest or prosecute people for minor drug offenses. Heck, entire states have legalized cannabis, even though it’s illegal under federal law. Sanctuary cities refuse to cooperate with federal law enforcement to help enforce federal immigration law. How is a sheriff refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement to enforce federal gun control laws any different?
One of the most effective arguments against new gun legislation is that it would burden gun owners who follow the law, as the vast majority do, without doing much to keep criminals from getting weapons. By declaring a willingness to stand against as-yet-unseen gun laws — and adapting the “sanctuary” language, which is typically associated with areas that decline to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement — commissioners are giving up that high ground.
Not really. The willingness to stand against laws that would infringe on the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms has quite a bit of high ground, in my opinion. Sure, there’s a case to be made that resolutions like the ones passed this week in Parker and Smith counties undermine the rule of law, but at least the civic disobedience expressed by these elected officials is in adherence to the Constitution, as opposed to anti-gun officials that are doing things like passing local gun control ordinances in violation of state law and in an attempt to weaken the Second Amendment rights of residents.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram got this one wrong, in my opinion. These resolutions aren’t just an excuse for politicians to grandstand. There is some substance to them, and there’s certainly merit. Parker and Smith counties may not be facing the same type of gun control laws that they’re facing in Effingham County, Illinois, but that could change very quickly depending on the results of next year’s elections. There’s nothing wrong with a little preventative politicking in defense of the right to keep and bear arms.