‘Second Amendment Sanctuary’ Resolutions Undermine the Rule of Law, Foster Distrust in Law Enforcement and May Deter People from Reporting Individuals Who May Hurt Themselves or Others
Everytown Support Fund: ‘Counties That Pass These Resolutions are Ignoring the Will of the People and Putting Lives at Risk’
NEW YORK – Today, Everytown Law, the litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown for Gun Safety, sent a letter to the National Sheriffs’ Association, the National Association of Counties, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the National League of Cities urging them to condemn the recent wave of “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolutions passed by some local governments. These resolutions typically declare that the local board or sheriff intends to refuse their legal and constitutional responsibility to enforce democratically-enacted gun violence prevention laws passed by their state legislatures based on their own personal opinion as to whether the laws are constitutional. Despite holding no legal merit, these resolutions set a dangerous precedent and undermine the rule of law by encouraging law enforcement officials to refuse to enforce gun safety measures that they incorrectly and unilaterally consider unconstitutional. They also threaten the safety of communities nationwide by fostering distrust in law enforcement and may deter people from reporting individuals that may hurt themselves or others.
“These local officials may say they’re ‘defending the constitution,’ but they’re actually ripping it apart,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. “Americans expect our sheriffs and law enforcement to uphold their oaths, respect the will of the people, and enforce the laws of their states — and that most definitely includes life-saving gun safety laws.”
“These so-called ‘Sanctuary Counties’ fly in the face of our Democratic norms and threaten to defy the will of the vast majority of Americans who support stronger gun laws,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “The laws these localities are threatening to refuse to enforce, like red flag laws, have already been ruled constitutional — and have been proven to save lives. Instead of cutting them off at the knees, we should let law enforcement officers do their jobs and use every tool possible to keep families safe.”
“With the same conviction we display when taking the oath of office, we must commit to practice impartial and non political actions during the course of our duties. Our democracy was designed to incorporate due process to write new laws and eliminate ineffective or unconstitutional laws, said Sheriff Paul Penzone, Maricopa County, Arizona. “Denying, ignoring or refusing to recognize and apply the laws as they are written is not within the authority of law enforcement professionals. Terms such as ‘Sanctuary’ county become an excuse to circumvent the law and defy due process and democracy. We must adhere to the Constitution when it meets our principles and values, and as importantly when it is in conflict. This is the basis of a nation founded in respect for the rule of law and due process. We owe it to our children to keep them safe and protect our democratic government.”
“Virginians have made it loud and clear — we want our lawmakers to fight for gun sense. These resolutions are a distraction. Not only are they meaningless, those pushing for them are not working within the bounds of democracy.” said Brigette Russell, a volunteer with the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Common-sense gun laws save lives, and those saying differently are part of a fading and in some cases extreme minority. We are firm in our belief that gun violence is preventable and we will continue to move this work forward by working with law enforcement officers and our new gun sense lawmakers to keep our families safe from gun violence.”
“While its exponents are not all racist or anti-government extremists, the current push for ‘Second Amendment sanctuaries’ is predicated on a belief system that was pioneered by white supremacists in the early 1970’s and has been implicated in antigovernment and racially motivated violence,” said Howard Graves, Senior Research Analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, these groups have increasingly seen guns as the primary vehicle through which local populations will maintain white political and cultural hegemony.”
The letter puts in stark terms the real-world implications of these resolutions:
“Imagine a mother whose son possesses a cache of firearms, but is watching him become mentally unstable and erratic. The mother may want to request an extreme risk order to have her son’s firearms temporarily removed while she seeks help for him. In many states, only law enforcement can request an extreme risk order. If the mother lives in an area where a county board or sheriff has announced they will not pursue or enforce such orders based on their personal opinion that the law is unconstitutional, the mother may be too scared or confused to request one from her sheriff, with deadly results.
The letter goes on to call on law enforcement and municipal associations to speak out against these resolutions:“We ask that you join us in condemning these actions in the strongest possible terms, and in reaffirming that it is every sheriff’s constitutional and legal duty to carry out and enforce duly enacted laws — including gun safety laws — whether or not they personally agree with those laws.”
The rise in Second Amendment Sanctuary Resolutions correlates with the rise in new state gun safety laws passed by democratically elected officials that aim to make communities safer, including red flag laws and background checks. As more and more gun sense champions take office, the gun lobby is hypocritically encouraging law enforcement to ignore the rule of law in defense of their extreme and dangerous interpretation of the Constitution. The proliferation of the resolutions has persisted despite the fact that courts around the country have repeatedly upheld a wide range of gun safety legislation under the Second Amendment.