Second Amendment Sanctuaries: 13 states declare themselves immune from federal gun-safety laws they consider unconstitutional
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Since the election of President Joe Biden, a number of state legislators have proposed so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary” legislation to declare their states immune from federal gun-safety laws they consider unconstitutional. Such bills aren’t an entirely new phenomenon; we saw an influx of proposals to “protect” states from gun control following the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting in 2013. What is new is the success of the movement. As of today, 13 states have enacted Second Amendment sanctuary laws.
These laws are dangerous and unconstitutional. They circumvent the democratic system and the role of courts in determining the constitutionality of laws, while confusing citizens into thinking they are immune and that certain gun laws do not apply to them.
“They’re really overstepping their role in the constitutional system and undermining the rule of law,” said Kathi Crowe, legislative lead volunteer for gun violence-prevention group Moms Demand Action’s Kentucky chapter. “I think a lot of this is to intimidate parents, survivors and people who want protection from gun violence.”
On April 13, 2022, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed Senate Bill 2, also known as the Alabama Second Amendment Protection Act, into law. It reads, in part:
The State of Alabama hereby declares that any and all federal acts, laws, orders, rules, and regulations related to firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition are a direct infringement on the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America and therefore are unconstitutional
“In Alabama, we value our rights so much so, our motto is ‘We dare defend our rights.’ As governor, I am proud to sign the Alabama Second Amendment Protection Act into law to ensure our constitutional right to bear arms is not infringed on by federal overreach,” Ivey said in a statement. “Alabamians can be confident I am taking a stand for their Second Amendment rights, and this legislation will further safeguard their ability to protect their families and homes.”
Alaska was one of the first states to enact a Second Amendment sanctuary-style bill. Republican Gov. Sean Parnell signed the Alaska Firearms Freedom Act into law in 2010 and another bill expanding its reach in 2013.
House Bill 69 (2013) reads in part:
A personal firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is possessed in this state or manufactured commercially or privately in this state and that remains in the state is not subject to federal law or federal regulation, including registration, under the authority of the United States Congress to regulate interstate commerce as those items have not traveled in interstate commerce…
(g) The attorney general shall, under the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States or art. I, sec. 19, Constitution of the State of Alaska, file legal action necessary to prevent the implementation of a federal statute, regulation, rule, or order that violates the rights of a resident of the state.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2111 into law last year, claiming it is needed to protect gun rights from the Biden administration.
Pursuant to the sovereign authority of this state and Article II, Section 3, Constitution of Arizona, this state and all political subdivisions of this state are prohibited from using any personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with any act, law, treaty, order, rule or regulation of the united states government that is inconsistent with any law of this state regarding the regulation of firearms.
Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed Senate Bill 1332 into law in 2014.
It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act to protect Idaho law enforcement officers from being directed, through federal executive orders, agency orders, statutes, laws, rules, or regulations enacted or promulgated on or after the effective date of this act, to violate their oath of office and Idaho citizens’ rights under Section 11, Article 1, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho. This Idaho constitutional provision disallows confiscation of firearms except those actually used in the commission of a felony, and disallows other restrictions on a citizen’s lawful right to own firearms and ammunition.
“I signed it into law as a way of protecting our Second Amendment rights under the United States Constitution and indemnifying Idaho law enforcement officials from enforcing federal firearms or ammunition restrictions that conflict with Section 11, Article I of the Idaho Constitution,” Otter said.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed Senate Bill 102 into law in 2013.
A personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately and owned in Kansas and that remains within the borders of Kansas is not subject to any federal law, treaty, federal regulation, or federal executive action, including any federal firearm or ammunition registration program, under the authority of congress to regulate interstate commerce…
It is unlawful for any official, agent or employee of the government of the United States, or employee of a corporation providing services to the government of the United States to enforce or attempt to enforce any act, law, treaty, order, rule or regulation of the government of the United States regarding a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately and owned in the state of Kansas and that remains within the borders of Kansas.
Republican Gov. Mike Parsons signed House Bill 85, known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act, into law last year.
(2) Declares that all federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, court orders, rules, and regulations, whether past, present, or future, that infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution must be invalid in this state, including those that impose a tax, levy, fee, or stamp on these items as specified in the bill; require the registration or tracking of these items or their owners; prohibit the possession, ownership, use, or transfer of a firearm; or order the confiscation of these items…
Specifies that any entity or person who knowingly acts under the color of any federal or state law to deprive a Missouri citizen of the rights or privileges ensured by the federal and state constitutions to keep and bear arms must be liable to the injured party for redress, including monetary damages in the amount of $50,000 per occurrence and injunctive relief.
The purpose of this is to stand up to the federal government,” Parson said. “Trust me, the states are the firewall to the federal government. If we haven’t learned that in the last 14 months, I don’t know when we’re ever gonna.”
Members of the community weren’t so sure the legislation would work as Parson intended:
City and county officials have said that the law may stop police from testifying against gun offenders in federal court, tapping federal resources to solve local shootings, or working with federal agents to disrupt firearms trafficking. The Missouri Highway Patrol said it plans to quit participating in federal task forces focused on weapons violations. In the city of O’Fallon, the prospect of a fine for seizing weapons during arrests or to protect a resident from suicide so appalled the police chief that he chose to resign rather than grapple with a “flood of weaponized litigation.”
Both local counties and the Justice Department have filed suit against the state for enacting the law.
Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed House Bill 258 into law last year:
A peace officer, state employee, or employee of a political subdivision is prohibited from enforcing, assisting in the enforcement of, or otherwise cooperating in the enforcement of a federal ban on firearms, magazines, or ammunition and is also prohibited from participating in any federal enforcement action implementing a federal ban on firearms, magazines, or ammunition.
Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation designating Nebraska as a “Second Amendment Sanctuary State.”
Nebraska will stand up against federal overreach and attempts to regulate gun ownership and use in the Good Life; and
The White House and U.S. Congress have announced their intention to pursue measures that would infringe on the right to keep and bear arms; and
A growing number of counties in Nebraska have declared themselves as ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary’ counties; and
Nebraska will continue to take any necessary step to defend our right to keep and bear arms..
Now, therefore, I Pete Ricketts, Governor of the State of Nebraska, do hereby proclaim the State of Nebraska is a Second Amendment Sanctuary State.
Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed [House Bill 1383 into law last year.
An agency or political subdivision of the state and a law enforcement officer or individual employed by an agency or political subdivision of the state may not provide assistance to a federal agency or official or act independently with respect to the investigation, prosecution, or enforcement of a violation of a federal statute, order, rule, or regulation purporting to regulate a firearm, firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition enacted after January 1, 2021, if the federal statute, order, rule, or regulation is more restrictive than state law
Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 631 into law last year.
The State Legislature hereby occupies and preempts the entire field of legislation by any agency of this state or any political subdivision in this state to infringe upon the rights of a citizen of the State of Oklahoma, the unalienable right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed to them by the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.
B. Any federal, state, county or municipal act, law, executive order, administrative order, court order, rule, policy or regulation ordering the buy-back, confiscation or surrender of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition from law-abiding citizens of this state shall be considered an infringement on the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Article II, Section 26 of the Constitution of Oklahoma.
“Monday was a great day in our state’s history, since we officially became a Second Amendment Sanctuary State,” Senator Warren Hamilton, who authored the bill, said. “This is especially pertinent now given the attacks on our Second Amendment rights by the Biden administration.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed Senate Bill 1335 into law last year.
Pursuant to the sovereign authority of this state, a law, treaty, executive order, rule, or regulation of the United States government that has been found by the supreme court of the United States or the Tennessee supreme court to violate Article I, § 26 of the Constitution of Tennessee or the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is null, void, and unenforceable in this state.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 2622 into law last year.
Notwithstanding any other law, an agency of this state, a political subdivision of this state, or a law enforcement officer or other person employed by an agency of this state or a political subdivision of this state may not contract with or in any other manner provide assistance to a federal agency or official with respect to the enforcement of a federal statute, order, rule, or regulation that:
(1) imposes a prohibition, restriction, or other regulation that does not exist under the laws of this state; and…relates to:
(A) a registry requirement for a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition; (B) a requirement that an owner of a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition possess a license as a condition of owning, possessing, or carrying the firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition; (C) a requirement that a background check be conducted for the private sale or transfer of a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition; (D) a program for confiscating a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition from a person who is not otherwise prohibited by the laws of this state from possessing the firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition; or (E) a program that requires an owner of a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition to sell the firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition.
“Politicians from the federal level to the local level have threatened to take guns from law-abiding citizens — but we will not let that happen in Texas,” said Governor Abbott. “Texas will always be the leader in defending the Second Amendment, which is why we built a barrier around gun rights this session.
Republican Gov. Mark Gordon signed House Bill 95 into law in March 2022.
A personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in Wyoming and that remains exclusively within the borders of Wyoming is not subject to federal law, federal taxation or federal regulation, including registration, under the authority of the United States congress to regulate interstate commerce…The authority of the United States congress to regulate interstate commerce in basic materials does not include authority to regulate firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition made within Wyoming borders from those materials.
“We stand strong together to hold ourselves and our officers accountable to not enforce, administer or cooperate with any unconstitutional acts,” said Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police Executive Board President and Rock Springs Police Chief Dwane Pacheco. “This is one of the most important legislative actions on a personal and professional level that I have seen in my career.”
The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement has infiltrated not just state legislatures, but gained the support of county governments and small town sheriffs across the country who refuse to enforce any gun laws they disagree with.
Many of these law enforcement officials align themselves with the movement of “constitutional sheriffs,” who believe their position should grant them the authority to determine the constitutionality of state and local laws, even if that means defying the federal government.
The idea of a constitutional sheriff emerged in the nineteen-seventies, in California. It was first proposed by William Potter Gale, who had been an aide to General Douglas MacArthur. According to Daniel Levitas’s book, “The Terrorist Next Door,” Gale embraced a belief system called Christian Identity, and, as a self-styled minister, preached that the Constitution was a divinely inspired document intended to elevate whites above Jews and racial minorities. From his Ministry of Christ Church, outside Yosemite National Park, where he sermonized in front of a giant Confederate flag, Gale produced a newsletter, “identity,” its name reflecting his ideology and his fondness for unnecessary capitalization.
According to one gun rights group “1,965 counties in the United States are covered by either state or county level 2A Sanctuary resolutions, ordinances, or laws” (as of September 2021).
The following is a partial list of counties that have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
39 out of 64 counties have declared themselves to be Second Amendment Sanctuaries, the majority in response to the state’s red flag law. Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams gained national attention for his refusal to enforce the red flag law, saying he is willing to be arrested for his beliefs.
At least 45 out of 67 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions. All 67 sheriffs signed a proclamation in 2013 vowing not to enforce laws that violate the Second Amendment in their view.
23 out of 159 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary laws or approved Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
68 out of 102 counties have declared themselves to be Second Amendment Sanctuaries. Most recently, the Vermilion County Board voted 19-4 to recognize the sheriff as the ultimate authority in enforcing gun laws. “The Vermilion County, Illinois Board supports the sitting sheriff with any and all control forthwith and that any infringements to the rights of local law-abiding gun owners shall not be recognized”
At least 29 out of 92 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 11 out of 99 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
“Nearly all” of 120 counties have [adopted](Nearly all of Kentucky’s 120 counties) Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 11 out of 23 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
The Somerset County Board of Commissioners stated last year that it “reasonably believes” the Maryland General Assembly “produces legislation that is clearly unconstitutional.”
Universal background checks, high-capacity magazine bans, assault weapon bans and red flag laws, among others, are potential measures perceived by some as threats to the Second Amendment.
The idea is supported by Somerset County Sheriff Ronald Howard, who made his own proclamation March 22 to declare Somerset a Second Amendment Sanctuary. The move echoed Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis’ proclamation March 2.
50 out of 83 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 17 out of 87 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 26 out of 82 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 11 out of 16 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 8 out of 21 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 26 out of 33 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 2 out of 62 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 68 out of 100 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
Gaston [County]’s resolution says “criminal misuse of firearms is not a reason to infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens” and that public money, resources, employees or facilities won’t be used to enforce any “unnecessary and unconstitutional” restriction of Second Amendment rights.
At least 25 out of 88 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 23 out of 36 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum sued two counties last year for adopting ordinances that “prohibit county officials from upholding the new state gun laws by imposing fines, criminal charges and even the possibility of civil suits for any enforcement action.”
Separately, Columbia County is appealing a County Circuit Court’s decision to throw out its Second Amendment sanctuary resolution.
At least 7 out of 67 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
“When we look at the stay at home orders and the business closures, Washington county stood up. We took legal action to uphold our constitutional right then and this was another step to ensure that our rights are not infringed,” said [Washington County Commissioner Diana] Vaughan.
At least 8 out of 6 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 5 out of 29 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 91 out of 95 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 23 out of 39 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
At least 20 county sheriffs pledged in 2019 not to enforce the provisions of I-1639, a ballot measure passed by popular vote last November which aims to restrict access to and use of assault weapons.
At least 24 out of 55 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
Putnam County commissioners were concerned that laws like New York’s on the transport of guns or Virginia’s proposed “red flag laws” could happen in West Virginia, according to Commission President Ron Foster. “I think sheriffs have the right not to enforce an unenforceable law,” Foster said.