Officials in Washington County, Maryland, had originally planned on voting on a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution back in March, but thanks to the coronavirus closures, the meeting was canceled. The issue didn’t disappear over the ensuing months, however, and on Tuesday, county commissioners unanimously approved a resolution stating that county funds should not be used to restrict the Second Amendment rights of residents or enforce any “unnecessary and unconstitutional restriction” on the right to keep and bear arms in the county.
Sheriff Doug Mullendore also signed the resolution on Tuesday, saying in a phone interview afterward that he views the move as “symbolic,” but that “we would certainly testify against any bill that would try to take away the Second Amendment.”
The sheriff’s office will still enforce the laws, Mullendore said.
Mullendore said he was opposed to a proposed bill during the last two state legislative sessions that would have required shotguns and rifles to be registered, including those already owned, calling the measure “ridiculous.”
“I believe that gun control is not the way to curb crime,” Mullendore said.
Like many counties on the Eastern Shore, Washington County is “more of a hunting and sportsmen” type of county, he said. Most of the guns the sheriff’s office takes off the street are either stolen or weren’t bought by the individual who possessed the weapon, he said.
“It’s not the guns, it’s the individual we need to worry about,” Mullendore said.
Washington County is now the seventh county in the state to adopt Second Amendment Sanctuary language, and the state’s anti-gun attorney general has been speaking out against the movement for several months. Back in June, AG Brian Frosh penned a letter to the chairman of the state’s House Judiciary Committee that alternated between dismissing the movement and warning against its growing popularity.
“While the resolutions vary significantly between counties, it is my view that they have no effect, in some cases because they are not intended to and in others because they exceed the authority of the counties,” Frosh wrote.
The local resolution states the commissioners’ intent to uphold Second Amendment rights of county citizens, and that public county funds not be used to restrict those rights or aid in the “unnecessary and unconstitutional restriction” of county residents’ Second Amendment rights to bear arms.
Frosh’s letter also addressed the problem of some county resolutions stating county funds won’t be used to enforce state laws “viewed as violating the Second Amendment.” Citing Rucker v. Harford County, Frosh wrote that local jurisdictions “may not” administer their policies in a way that precludes the sheriff or state’s attorney from carrying out responsibilities imposed by “applicable law.”
Frosh knows that there’s nothing he can do if local law enforcement decide that enforcing non-violent, possessory firearm offenses isn’t going to be a top priority for them. In fact, Frosh himself has stayed silent as local prosecutors have announced that they won’t be prosecuting low-level drug offenses, even after an arrest has been made.
Prosecutors and police have discretion in terms of the laws that they enforce. We’re seeing it right now in Baltimore, where State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has dismissed a slew of criminal charges with the stated goal of reducing the spread of the coronavirus behind bars. If Mosby has the power to do that, then surely the Washington County Sheriff or state’s attorney has the same authority to decide not to pursue low-level, non-violent gun cases.
The bottom line is this: Frosh and other anti-gun politicians can gnash their teeth and wring their hands, but the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is only treading ground already blazed by prosecutors and politicians who’ve been eager to ignore the laws that they don’t feel like enforcing. Pro-2A activists in Maryland are just learning by example, and there’s not a lot that the AG can do about it.