Michigan Sheriffs Lauded for Second Amendment Sanctuary Stand

AP Photo/Brittainy Newman

Michigan's "red flag" law is now in effect, but some sheriffs are vowing not to file any Extreme Risk Protection Orders over their concerns about the constitutionality of the measure. Several of those sheriffs, along with county supervisors who've voted to make their communities Second Amendment sanctuaries, were honored on Monday night by the Grand New Party PAC at a celebration in Howell, Michigan, though a few anti-gunners turned out to protest the event as well. 


Protesters outside Howell's Opera House Monday night, where Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy and others were recognized for declaring the county a "Second Amendment Sanctuary" last year, pledging not to enforce Michigan's new red flag gun laws.

"I don't think being our sheriff and not enforcing state laws is going to keep our children safe. That's how I feel about it. They can't ignore red flags, and there's a lot of them around here," one protester told WILX Lansing.

Sheriffs can ignore "red flag" laws while still responding to someone who poses a danger to themselves or others. Michigan, like every other state in the union, has a process for involuntary mental health commitments for individuals who are in the grips of a mental health crisis, and that offers a more comprehensive (and constitutionally sound) approach to addressing someone in crisis than simply taking any lawfully-owned guns they might own and considering the problem solved. 

The Second Amendment sanctuary movement has largely faded from the headlines from its peak in 2020 and early 2021, when thousands of counties, towns, cities, and even a few states adopted resolutions or ordinances declaring that they would not enforce unconstitutional gun laws within their borders. According to SanctuaryCounties.com, by April of 2021 more than 60 percent of counties across the country had declared themselves sanctuaries for the right to keep and bear arms, and while the number of counties taking that step may have slowed down over the past couple of years, there are still places like Livingston County where officials have responded to new state-level restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms by asserting their "sanctuary" status. 


The idea has also spawned similar "Bill of Rights sanctuaries" in several states, including Florida, where a number of communities have either adopted that label or will soon vote on whether or not to do so. 

Last August, Florida's Collier County declared itself a "Bill of Rights sanctuary."

Sarasota County followed a few months later. The Marco Island City Council announced in January plans to be the first city to take that stand. A Hendry County commissioner wants to join the fight. The Volusia County Chair in 2021 tried to get support for the move there but it was voted down. What does any of that mean? Mostly, it means that people there are unhappy with and distrustful of the federal government and want to be able to disregard federal rules they feel are unconstitutional or overreaching. 

Collier County Commissioner Chris Hall described the ordinance as a way to protect the "God-given rights" of the county residents. He said it would allow the county to have the backs of its citizens when there's overreach by the federal government that infringes on those rights. Details of such infringement were left undefined.

The ordinance proclaims the county has the "right to be free from the commanding hand of the federal government and has the right to refuse to cooperate with federal government officials in response to unconstitutional federal government measures."

Collier's ordinance defines "any federal act, law, order, rule, or regulation, which violates or unreasonably restricts, impedes, or impinges upon" a person's Constitutional rights as unlawful, making any such act "null, void and of no effect in Collier County."


The attempt to nullify federal gun laws (or any other infringements to our individual rights) is the least enforceable aspect of these declarations, but local law enforcement has the power not to enforce federal law on its own, as well as the discretion to enforce state and local laws as sheriffs and chiefs see fit. If Sheriff Murphy thinks there's a better way to ensure the safety of Livingston County residents than the state's constitutionally deficient "red flag" law, the state can't compel him to enforce it.

Stil, that doesn't mean that the new law will never be used. Under Michigan's ERPO law, law enforcement aren't the only ones who can file for a "red flag" order, and if one is ever granted by a Livingston County judge it could fall to the state police to confiscate any lawfully owned firearms covered under the petition. Second Amendment sanctuaries are an important way for 2A supporters to take a stand in defense of their rights, but they're not a guarantee that those rights won't be violated regardless. For that, we need to support candidates for local, state, and federal office who have no designs on our Second Amendment rights to begin with, and who will not only advance legislation strengthening those rights but will repeal the unconstitutional laws that are already in place. 


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