The idea is clever – and you will not see mainstream media trumpeting it. In short, why not create “sanctuary cities” (or counties) that promote gun safety, public security and gun ownership. The phrase used in Effingham County, Illinois is “Second Amendment Sanctuary County.” Where this trail leads is anyone’s guess, but it could prove more than interesting.
In short, the idea is to create non-binding resolutions on a local – perhaps eventually state – level that reinforce, reassure and reaffirm the municipality’s commitment to Second Amendment rights, as well as responsible gun ownership, use and education. In some places, resolutions attempt to exempt a county or city from arguably unconstitutional state law, while in others they simply encourage gun ownership and stewardship.
Obviously, this sends two signals – one of openness to responsible gun owners, one of caution to those who would pursue lawless, violent or provocative actions intended to place at risk public and private safety of those living in these counties.
If the constitutional framers were alive today – men who placed the rights to gun ownership, free speech, free association, freedom of worship and indicia of limited government in our first two constitutional amendments – once senses they would either cheer or shrug.
The idea that responsible, citizen- gun owners should have to frame a second affirmation of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms for individual and collective security, now at the municipal level, would strike some as reassuring, others as absurd.
But this is the world we live in, where long established rights are being questioned – along with constitutional guarantees, secular and religious traditions, and intergenerational promises of fidelity to principle. So, perhaps the idea is a good one.
As present, 64 of 102 Illinois counties, three other states, and perhaps nine more (all considering the concept) are on the way to becoming “Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties.” Supporters call it a “movement,” lined up opposite a counter-movement of free-range “Sanctuary Cities” – that is, municipalities (in California, an entire state) which is resolved to shelter illegal aliens from legal process, overtly declining to cooperate with federal law enforcement.
The connection between these two phenomena is not as far removed as might seem. The so-called “Sanctuary Cities” (and state) are encountering increases in certain crimes, both in and around their geographies. Illegal aliens move with relative impunity to federal laws, which would otherwise be enforced with local cooperation, and generally result in deportation – specifically for criminal activity.
In the “Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties,” emphasis is on collective and personal security, in the context of rising concern over declining state, county and city law enforcement – or on the flip side, rising rates of crime. So openness of some states, counties and cities to illegal aliens, seems to be spawning a counter-push to re-secure parts of the country that feel at-risk or vulnerable.
While local pro-gun ownership resolutions are likely to vary widely, and do not appear to be creating major legal blowback (since we do all have Second Amendment rights), Effingham County’s 2018 resolution argued that five pieces of Illinois legislation limiting gun ownership were unconstitutional.
These five included a minimum age of 21 for gun ownership, limits on gun-related addenda (e.g. bump stocks) and body armor. The county demanded that the “Illinois General Assembly cease further actions restricting the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” and pressed for the governor to veto such limitations.
While some think the movement has no teeth, since municipalities are hard-pressed to force states to reverse course, others think it will grow. Buried in the idea is growing resentment over restrictions on citizen rights, juxtaposed with expansion of rights for non-citizens who steal their way into the country.
The surprise is that this reaffirmation of basic rights – at the municipal level – is growing. County sheriffs and state’s attorneys are coming out in favor, and we will have to see where it leads.
The basic question is: Are we experiencing a renaissance in popular concern to defend Second Amendment rights at a local level. The question buried in that question is: If Americans are willing to stand up more fully, fruitfully and forcefully for their Second Amendment rights, what about similar resolutions tied to First Amendment rights, including freedoms of speech, religion and association? And if First Amendment rights have new enthusiasm breathed into them, what other rights may reappear?
Whether the “Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties” movement continues to grow remains to be seen, but whenever Americans get involved in civic life at the local level, be assured – they have the bit in their mouth. We, The People, are hard to stop when we start galloping down the trail of reclaiming lost rights.