Second Amendment Sanctuaries on the Rise

April 22, 2019 Updated: April 23, 2019

Capitalizing on the political success of the so-called sanctuary city movement that shields illegal aliens from federal immigration enforcement authorities, gun-rights activists are using the “sanctuary” concept to defend Americans’ constitutionally guaranteed private gun ownership rights.

Some law enforcement officials have vowed to resist anti-gun laws by not enforcing those they consider to be unconstitutional overreaches. Others provide moral support to the resistance effort without doing much in the way of specific action.

This popular movement to reinforce Second Amendment rights has been spurred largely by Democrat-led states’ crackdowns on gun rights that escalated during President Barack Obama’s tenure, including increasingly prevalent so-called red flag laws that allow police or family members to ask courts to temporarily seize an individual’s firearms if the person is deemed a danger to himself or others. Gun-rights activists view red flag laws as arbitrary and as a backdoor means of partially achieving the gun control measures that gun rights opponents actually desire.

Whether framing jurisdictions that protect Second Amendment rights from state or federal encroachment as sanctuaries or havens will be effective in the long run is an open question. The key legal difference between sanctuary jurisdictions for illegal aliens and those for gun owners is that one protects unlawful behavior, while the other protects what the sanctuary proponents say is lawful behavior. Illegal aliens have no constitutional right to be present in the United States, but the right to own firearms is specifically enumerated in the Constitution, although subject to interpretation by the courts.

Taking a page from the left’s playbook, gun-rights activists are promoting what some are calling the “Second Amendment sanctuary county” movement. The movement got a huge boost recently from Illinois, where 64 of the state’s 102 counties have signed on, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Effingham County State’s Attorney Bryan Kibler reportedly came up with the idea of a movement of Illinois counties emulating the sanctuary city movement.

“I said, well, they’re creating sanctuary counties for illegals up in Chicago, why don’t we just steal their word and make Effingham County a sanctuary county for firearms?” Kibler said at a rally.

Effingham County adopted a resolution in 2018 banning FOID, or state firearm owner’s identification, cards, which Second Amendment supporters say are unconstitutional. Illinois residents are required to have a FOID card to possess firearms or ammunition. The cards are issued by Illinois State Police after they conduct a background check on the applicant. There are efforts pending in the state legislature to force FOID applicants to submit to being fingerprinted.

Effingham’s resolution also declared that proposals to raise the minimum age for gun ownership to 21, and ban specific weapons, bump stocks, and body armor were unconstitutional. The resolution asked state lawmakers to “cease further actions restricting the right of the people to keep and bear arms” and demanded that the governor veto any such bills.

Monroe County, Illinois, Sheriff Neal Rohlfing supports the Second Amendment sanctuary movement.

“We in law enforcement can’t assign police to families for personal protection and I think that’s what the Second Amendment is all about—personal protection for yourself and your loved ones,” Rohlfing said.

More than two dozen counties in Colorado have vowed to resist the state’s red flag law, which makes it relatively easy to take a gun owner’s firearms away. The gun-removal petition can reportedly be filed by telephone or in person and the filer doesn’t have to provide his or her address or even be a resident of Colorado.

Those counties approved resolutions supporting their sheriffs “in the exercise of his sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law,” and vowing not to appropriate taxpayer funds to construct storage facilities for guns seized by police.

Democratic Colorado Attorney General Phil Weise, who supports the red flag law, said local law enforcement officials should resign if they won’t enforce it.

El Paso County, Colorado, Sheriff Bill Elder said he would “vigorously challenge the constitutionality” of the bill and “protect the Second, Fourth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendment rights of all lawful gun owners in the state, and not just in El Paso County.”

Legislation committing jurisdictions to resist what they deem to be overbroad federal and state gun measures has been adopted or is reportedly under consideration in jurisdictions in Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington.

Three states seem to have anticipated the recent revival of the gun control movement.

Alaska was apparently the first state to act, enacting HB 69 in 2013. It prohibited state and municipal agencies “from using assets to implement or aid in the implementation of the requirements of certain federal statutes, regulations, rules, and orders that are applied to infringe on a person’s right to bear arms or right to due process.”

Idaho enacted legislation in 2014 nullifying future federal gun laws by forbidding the state from enforcing such federal laws related to personal firearms, accessories, and ammunition.

In 2014 Kansas enacted the Second Amendment Protection Act which declares any “act, law, treaty, order, rule or regulation of the government of the United States which violates” the Second Amendment to be “null, void and unenforceable in the state of Kansas.”