Utah Governor Hits Pause Button On 2A Sanctuary Bill

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Lawmakers in Utah are scheduled to meet in special session this week, but they won’t have the opportunity to vote on a bill making the state a Second Amendment Sanctuary that refuses to cooperate with the federal government in enforcing any new gun restrictions coming out of Washington, D.C.

Gov. Spencer Cox says the 2A Sanctuary proposal won’t be a topic for the special session, and neither will a bill that would ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Utah schools.

The governor decided to not include the two issues on Wednesday’s special session agenda because he said they “would benefit from more time, thought, dialogue and input.”

“While I’m sure someone might be able to point out differently, I can’t remember these types of hot-button issues ever being put on a special session call,” Cox wrote in a letter to legislators issued along with his call. “It’s not that I disagree with the desire to act, but doing it the right way — and at the right time — will lead to better legislation.”

Cox’s decision to omit the ban on critical race theory and the declaration of Utah as a “Second Amendment sanctuary” does not mean Utah lawmakers won’t address the issue in the future. It just will not be part of this week’s special session.

I’m sure some folks will be calling Cox a Second Amendment Squish for avoiding the sanctuary bill, but I don’t really think that’s fair. After all, Cox did sign a Constitutional Carry bill earlier this year, removing the requirement that legal gun owners obtain a government license before they can lawfully carry in self-defense.

Still, Cox’s stated objection to including the Second Amendment Sanctuary legislation doesn’t make much sense, because lawmakers have been talking the idea for months already. In fact, back in February the Utah House approved a 2A Sanctuary measure.

“Any regulation, in the state of Utah, as it relates to firearms, is the prerogative of the state,” bill sponsor Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi, told the House Judiciary Committee Monday. Maloy ran similar legislation, HB271, last year but it died in the Senate on the last day of the session.

HB76 passed the House 56-16 Tuesday with a vote mostly along party lines. Democratic Rep. Ashlee Matthews, of West Jordan, was the only one to break from her party and voted in favor of the bill.

I was wrong when I said legislators have been talking about this for months. It’s actually been a topic of discussion for over a year now, and as the lopsided vote in the House back in February shows, the idea isn’t exactly controversial, at least in one chamber.

In his statement to lawmakers, Cox said in his opinion the state is already a “constitutional sanctuary state.”

“You and I each swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, and I know you take that oath as seriously as I do. Since Marbury v. Madison in 1803, when the federal government acts in ways that violate the Constitution, aggrieved parties have petitioned the courts to overturn those acts,” Cox wrote. “I meet regularly with Attorney General Reyes to discuss federal overreach and join lawsuits to hold the federal government accountable.”

The governor said his administration’s “commitment to protecting the Second Amendment must never be in doubt.” However, “while the concept of a sanctuary state is an intriguing one, I believe, for all the reasons mentioned above, it is best left to a general session.”

It sounds like maybe it’s the governor who could use a little more thought and dialogue on the issue. Second Amendment Sanctuary legislation isn’t about suing the federal government over unconstitutional gun control laws. It’s about state and local police not enforcing any new federal gun laws, including not cooperating with federal authorities when it comes to enforcement.

Again, I don’t think that Spencer Cox is a secret gun control activist, but he’s either woefully misinformed on what 2A Sanctuary legislation is about (and how long lawmakers have been discussing the issue), or his desire to keep this week’s special session free of “hot button issues” is so strong that he’s willing to misinform the public about the idea and its legislative history in the state. Either way, it’s a disappointing stance for the governor to take given his support for Constitutional Carry legislation, and in deep-red and pro-gun Utah it’s an unforced political error on his part.

Dec 04, 2021 11:30 AM ET