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Editorial: ‘Sanctuary’ resolutions have no teeth

Editorial Board • Jan 30, 2020 at 11:00 AM

It’s inviting for politicians to rally around the Constitution as with Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions. After all, even if it’s bad public policy and even when the resolutions are worth little more than the paper on which they are written (or less), it’s doggone sure good for votes.

Over the past several months, hundreds of municipalities in dozens of states have passed resolutions opposing the enforcement of certain gun laws passed by state or federal governments. In some counties, sheriffs say they won’t enforce specific gun safety laws and firearm confiscation statutes. In others, elected officials with puffed chests spout and snort about opposing laws they are sworn to uphold.

But despite the fear of being painted as opposing our right to bear arms, some voices of reason are emerging even as most politicians are in a dead run to catch up to and jump on board this out-of-control bandwagon.

Appalachia joined two other Wise County towns recently with its version, but with one dissenting vote. Town Council member Bob Hartley broke ranks in the 4-1 vote, saying that he supported some of the measures being considered by state lawmakers including expanded background checks for gun sales. “I think the laws have to be changed,” Hartley said. “I’m a gun owner myself, but if you’ve seen what a bullet can do to an animal or a child, they don’t get up and walk away like in the movies.”

Hartley said existing Virginia limits on background checks “protect the criminals” in cases such as sales at gun shows or sales between individuals.

Hawkins County Commissioner Mike Herrell sponsors its sanctuary resolution and says that “defending the Second Amendment rights is my main goal. I’m a firm believer in the Constitution and I think we ought to stand up for the Constitution. I understand if you go out here and do something wrong, you should have your guns taken. But you’ve got a lot of citizens who’ve just got guns for a hobby, hunting or whatever, and I don’t think anybody ought to be losing their gun. It’s our Second Amendment right to bear arms.”

Last we checked, no one with even an ounce of constitutional sense is proposing that guns be confiscated outright. And as Commissioner John Metz points out, the resolution “doesn’t do anything. This means nothing because there’s no threat of (a law undermining Second Amendment rights) being passed and it’s not even under consideration. It’s a do-nothing resolution; (red flag laws) aren’t even being considered here.”

Indeed, these sanctuary cities/counties resolutions have zero teeth. In fact, it could be argued that in a court of law there may be instances where such resolutions might be a significant liability for a city or county. After all, these resolutions essentially declare that law enforcement in that county will selectively enforce the law. We can imagine fairly simple arguments where failure to enforce a law that might cause harm or death could put a city or county in a costly liability bind.

So we ask these elected officials: Is your chest-thumping pandering worth risking the financial future of the city or county you represent? Or is it better to endorse enforcement of the law?

P.S. If you endorse enforcement of the law, you can still 100 percent endorse — as you should — our Second Amendment rights as prescribed. Don’t be bullied into believing otherwise.