Utah Lawmakers Buck Governor On 2A Sanctuary Proposal

Utah Lawmakers Buck Governor On 2A Sanctuary Proposal
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Earlier this week, we reported that Utah Gov. Spencer Cox declined to add a Second Amendment Sanctuary proposal to the list of topics that lawmakers will address during a special session that kicks off today. Cox claimed that “hot button issues” like the 2A Sanctuary measure were best left to the regular session instead of being rushed through the legislature with little debate.

“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.

Well, it turns out that Second Amendment Sanctuary language will be a part of the special session after all, though anything the legislature passes will lack the force of law.

Senate Republicans announced Tuesday that they plan resolutions on the two issues. House Republicans will make a similar move.

Critical race theory, which maintains that racism is embedded in the history of the United States, has become a target of the political right in recent months.

The concept is not currently taught in Utah’s K-12 schools. Republicans in the Legislature wanted to make sure that never happens, with a ban on the concept.

“Utahns, not federal bureaucrats, must remain in control of what is taught in our schools,” House Speaker Brad Wilson said in a statement.

Lawmakers also wanted to include a proposal allowing the state to either refuse to enforce or ignore any new federal gun laws or regulations, making Utah a Second Amendment sanctuary state.

As the Salt Lake Tribune points out, the legislature will be voting on a resolution in support of making Utah a Second Amendment Sanctuary, though lawmakers could have taken steps to force a vote on an actual 2A Sanctuary bill if they really wanted to. Under Utah’s constitution, if 2/3rds of the House and Senate approve adding legislation to the special session’s agenda, they could override the governor’s limitations, and the GOP majority is large enough in both chambers to take that step, as long as the caucus is on the same page.

Instead of taking that step, after the governor’s special session has concluded, both the House and Senate will re-convene in what’s called an “extraordinary session” on Wednesday afternoon to vote on resolutions regarding the teaching of critical race theory in public schools as well as the 2A Sanctuary issue.

As for Utah becoming a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” Senate Republicans said they were “committed to protecting the Second Amendment rights defined in the U.S. Constitution by our Founding Fathers.”

“Our most important duty as legislators is to preserve Utahns’ freedoms, including the freedom to bear arms without government interference,” Senate Republicans said. “As the majority caucus, we support and recognize that most Utah citizens stand by the Second Amendment. It is concerning to see what is happening at the Federal level to threaten our right to bear arms. We are and will continue to work on legislation to address this pressing concern.”

It may be that there wasn’t enough support within the Republican caucus to go ahead and override Cox on the special session’s agenda, given that some lawmakers are likely to defer to the governor in setting the terms of the scope of the session. The “extraordinary session” is likely a compromise between those willing to accept Cox’s terms and those who wanted to forge ahead on the measures, but the end result is that any formal legislation that would block state and local police from cooperating with their federal counterparts in enforcing new gun control laws coming out of Washington is going to have to wait until 2021.

I’m disappointed that the Republican majority in the Utah legislature decided not to send a stronger rebuke to Cox, but I can’t say I’m really surprised by their decision. The leadership probably felt like an outright revolt against the governor would fracture the caucus, especially if the votes weren’t there to successfully override his agenda for the special session. Instead, Second Amendment supporters will get some sizzle from lawmakers today, but they’re going to have to wait until next year for the steak.