The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement began in earnest in 2018, when a number of counties in Illinois followed the lead of rural Effingham County in passing a resolution that stated no county funds would be used to enforce unconstitutional gun control laws. Since then the movement has grown to well over 500 localities in more than 20 states, and I’m predicting that once Joe Biden office and begins pushing his gun control agenda, we’re going to see hundreds more follow suit.
The movement is getting bigger in another way, however. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has come out in support of making the entire state a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
.@GregAbbott_TX priorities this #txlege:
1. Expand tele-med
2. Protect pre-existing conditions
3. Public safety
4. 2A sanctuary state
5. Protect against “cancelation” of conservative speech
6. Protect religious rights
7. Fight overreach of Biden admin @KXAN_News pic.twitter.com/8BABrybJdm
— John Engel (@EngelsAngle) January 14, 2021
Abbott endorsed the idea at a forum hosted by the Texas Public Policy Coalition on Thursday night, naming it one of his top legislative priorities this year. Given the outsized role that Texas plays in Republican politics as well as in the hearts of conservatives across the country, Abbott just jumpstarted a conversation about state-level Second Amendment Sanctuary language that I suspect will lead to other governors and lawmakers outside of Texas embracing the idea.
Even before Abbott had given his approval for the idea, Oklahoma State Sen. Nathan Dahm had filed legislation that would make the Sooner State a Second Amendment Sanctuary. I can’t imagine that Oklahoma lawmakers are going to let Texas lay claim to the title first, and I could see several states move to adopt similar language in the very near future.
The Left likes to claim that these declarations are meaningless, though they seem to have a big issue with something that supposedly doesn’t matter. Here’s Mary McCord, legal director of Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, in the Washington Post last January, as the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement was catching fire in Virginia.
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 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.
What McCord describes is one way of going about establishing a Second Amendment Sanctuary, but it’s far from the only way to do so. A far more common approach is to resolve not to use any funds to enforce new gun control laws, and to reiterate the discretion that police chiefs and sheriffs have in deciding what laws are going to be a priority for enforcement.
Going back to the Fugitive Slave Act, we can find localities and even states that passively resisted enforcing federal laws that were unpopular and believed to be unconstitutional. Since then we’ve seen widespread civic disobedience in resisting federal prohibition of alcohol, enforcement of our immigration laws, and the laws criminalizing the possession of marijuana.
Second Amendment Sanctuaries aren’t a new idea, and they most definitely can be written in a way that’s likely to survive court scrutiny, but anti-gun Democrats in Washington, D.C. could choose to escalate things by trying to cut off federal funds for various programs until any Second Amendment Sanctuary state relents. Of course, it would be a complete double standard compared to how Democrats have treated the issue of sanctuary cities and states for illegal immigrants and the state-level legalizations of cannabis, but something tells me that Democrats won’t let a little thing like inconsistency stand in the way of an attempt to punish gun owners.
That would be their mistake, and I hope they don’t make it, but the threat of punishment also shouldn’t stop states like Texas from moving forward with Second Amendment Sanctuary protections for residents. Now that Greg Abbott’s laid down the gauntlet, I’d love to see a stampede of states follow suit.