Second Amendment Sanctuary push still seeing local success

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

It’s been more than four years since the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement kicked off in earnest in Illinois, and we are still seeing a growing number of local communities across the country adopt resolutions or ordinances designed to protect the 2A rights of residents from unconstitutional infringements. While most of the media attention has been on state-level initiatives like Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act, there’s still a lot of activity taking place at the local level in states like Iowa and Pennsylvania that’s worth noting.

In fact, in Iowa there are now 35 counties that have designated themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries, though the specific language varies from county to county. Pennsylvania 2A activists have been working since at least 2020 to put similar resolutions and ordinances in place, and last November they scored a huge victory when voters in Blair County overwhelmingly approved a referendum designating both the county and municipalities within its borders as Second Amendment sanctuaries.

Those municipalities have spent the last few months crafting and passing their own ordinances as required by the referendum, but some of the folks who supported the referendum say the language adopted by cities is weaker than they expected, and they sounded off on Monday night as the Altoona City Council debated their own resolution.

Council passed the resolution Monday as it was drawn up recently by the eight solicitors who represent all the municipalities, despite a plea Monday from Bonita Shreve, president of the Blair County Second Amendment Coalition, which proposed the referendum along with the Blair County Tea Party.

“Hear what your citizens are saying, please,” Shreve urged council. “Fortify our God-given rights and freedoms.”

Such enforcement is necessary given that “the current administration makes a mockery of our Constitution,” and the nation is threatened by “tyranny,” Shreve said.

“Whatever teeth you can put in, please do,” Shreve said. “Make Blair County the backbone of Pennsylvania.”

Shreve and others wanted to see the local ordinance include provisions allowing for criminal charges against officials who violate the new resolution, but Altoona city solicitor Tom Finn says the city isn’t legally able to do that.

The municipalities of the county are acting in compliance with the referendum under the state’s Intergovernmental Cooperation Act, which doesn’t provide tools for criminal enforcement, Finn said.

The enforcement against municipal officials who would violate the agreement must be by lawsuit, officials have said.

… It’s not fitting to go outside the law in response to others going outside the law, Finn said.

I understand the desire to have a resolution with some teeth to it, but honestly, the most toothless law of all is one that’s been thrown by the courts, so adding in criminal penalties that violate state law might not be the best way to go.

Given the strong support for the original Second Amendment Sanctuary referendum, however, it seems to me that the local Tea Party organizers who spearheaded that effort now have the opportunity to work with attorneys on making the existing resolution stronger than it already is. It might even be possible to work with city officials like Finn, who said on Monday night that he’s “sympathetic” with the aims of the resolution, noting that there have been instances over the past couple of years where “the rule of law has been thrown out the window.”

I don’t know what exactly Finn was referring to, though Gov. Tom Wolf’s attempt to keep gun stores closed as “non-essential businesses” in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic was the first thing that came to my mind, though we’ve also saw attempts by Philadelphia officials to curtail the issuing of concealed carry licenses as well.

Unfortunately, there’s good reason to be concerned about future attempts to infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms as well, and I’m heartened to see the activism on display in Blair County. I hope that they’ll keep pressing to make their Second Amendment Sanctuary language as strong as possible, but they should be proud of what they’ve already accomplished to date.

As for the future of the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement, I see no reason why it won’t continue to spread across the country from city councils to state legislatures; each of them a firewall against the continued attempts to turn our right to keep and bear arms into a criminal offense.