The Return Of The Second Amendment Sanctuary Movement

In the weeks after Virginia’s elections last November, which saw Democrats take complete control of state government for the first time nearly three decades and immediately begin their push to pass sweeping gun control laws, dozens of counties and towns across the state adopted resolutions declaring their communities to be a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” Hundreds, and sometimes thousands of gun owners and Second Amendment supporters packed into county supervisor and city council meetings in support of the measures, and the statewide movement prompted counties in towns in several other states to pass resolutions of their own.

The movement has died down since the COVID-19 virus has put a halt to many in-person government meetings, but as Election Day draws near, there are some signs that the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement may be set for a revival across the country, particularly if Democrats succeed in taking control of the White House and U.S. Senate in November.

Already, voters in one Oregon county will have the opportunity to weigh in on the subject on November 3rd. In Clatsop County, Measure 4-205 would prohibit “enforcement of any of the following related to firearms: Any tax, levy or fee on the purchase or ownership of said items, any tracking requirements, background checks, confiscation orders, ownership of non-fully automatic firearms or accessories, and any restriction on the open or concealed carrying of firearms.”

The ballot measure has drawn opposition from the local paper, Democratic groups like the local chapter of “Indivisible,” and even the county sheriff, who says the county is prepared to take legal action if the measure passes.

“I myself am a supporter of the Second Amendment, and I do have some of the types of things personally that I think this law attempts to protect,” the sheriff said. “But this goes way outside of what’s appropriate.”

Now, if I’d been in charge of drafting the ballot measure, I would tweaked the language. Instead of prohibiting the enforcement of any particular law, I would have restricted the spending any resources on enforcement of non-violent firearms offenses by legal gun owners without the prior approval of county commissioners.

From a legal perspective, it’s pretty tough to argue that counties have the authority to not enforce state law (federal law is another story). But while local governments may not have the authority to declare state and federal laws null and void, they do have the power to decide what their law enforcement priorities are going to be.

With limited resources, the Clatsop County sheriff and local police in Astoria and the other towns in Clatsop County can’t be expected to proactively seek out non-violent firearms offenses involving legal gun owners. They’ve got bigger things to worry about, and the proposed ordinance should reflect that, at least if the effort is about putting in place a measure that the courts would uphold.

Clatsop County isn’t the only locale where residents will soon have a chance to weigh in on a Second Amendment Sanctuary proposal. In Otsego County, New York more than 3,000 residents signed petitions in support of the county board declaring the county a safe haven for the right to keep and bear arms. In fact, supporters say they would have had even more signatures to turn in were it not for the theft of several petitions that had dozens of signatures on them.

In one case in Worcester, [County Rep. Rick] Brockway said, a woman entered a stored and said she wanted to sign the petition.  The store owner brought it out.  She then asked him about a product on the shelf behind him.  When he turned back around, she was out the door, taking the petition with her.

There were also a couple of cases of petition theft in Cooperstown, he said.

And in Staunton, Virginia the city council has agreed to hold a special meeting on a Second Amendment Sanctuary, which is a particularly welcome move for gun owners. Earlier this year the city council rejected a similar resolution by a 6-1 margin, and even voted 4-3 to bar any further discussion on the issue. In local elections held in May, however, the anti-gun majority on the city council were booted out, and a pro-Second Amendment majority was elected in to replace them. As a result the resolution is back on the table.

“I think that it is obviously a topic of discussion that brings out passion on both, those who support and those who have concerns. I would like to hear from all of our citizens in a public hearing style format,” [Councilwoman Ann] Darby explained.

Three members were not in favor of the meeting including Councilwoman Brenda Mead, who expressed her concern to councilmembers in favor, for the hundreds of people who have already signed a petition against the matter…

In an interview Thursday afternoon, Mead said she was against the idea earlier this year and still is now.

“I will not support a Second Amendment city resolution. As I said before I pledged an oath to support the Constitution of the commonwealth of Virginia and I will do that,” Mead explained.

Mayor Oakes voted to have the special meeting and said it is an opportunity to listen to the people.

“Everything will be considered, absolutely everybody’s voice will be heard.” Mayor Oakes said.

Expect many more voices to be heard if Democrats take control of both the legislative and executive branch of the federal government in November. The current push for a Second Amendment Sanctuary status in Clatsop and Oswego counties, as well as the city of Staunton, will be the precursor for a flood of similar resolutions in hundreds of counties across the U.S.