Friday, February 3, 2023

As petitions circulate online, Brunswick County considers ‘gun sanctuary’ motion, but what does it mean?

SOUTHEAST N.C. — Brunswick County will likely take up the debate on whether or not to declare itself a ‘gun sanctuary county,’ according to County Commissioner Frank Williams. The move would follow suit of several other counties across the state.

Brunswick County Commissioner Mike Forte recently shared a petition on his Facebook page going around on social media to label Brunswick County a ‘gun sanctuary city,’ saying he has submitted the request to the county’s staff.

“My friends, I returned home from tonight’s County Commissioners meeting to find this [the petition] all over Facebook. Please know that I brought this up during that meeting and we have directed our legal department to get everything in order and we will most likely vote for it at our February 17th meeting,” Forte wrote.

In turn, Chairman Williams shared Forte’s post confirming it would likely show up on the agenda in February.

And it’s not just Brunswick County considering the designation.

In Columbus County, State Representative Brenden Jones has created a petition asking the County Commissioners to consider a resolution designating it a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary.’

“A Second Amendment Sanctuary means the locality will oppose possible gun control laws. Therefore, if such sanctuary measures were passed or enacted, the Columbus County Board of Commissioners would be expressing their deepest commitment in protecting the constitutional right of all citizens in Columbus County to keep and bear arms,” Jones said.

In March of 2019, Pender County leaders debated becoming a ‘sanctuary county’ for guns. The item divided the Board of Commissioners and was eventually tabled to an unspecified date; it has not been brought back before the board.

A symbolic gesture

A petition has been started to designate New Hanover County a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary County.’ (Port City Daily/File)

But what does all of this even mean?

The term sanctuary city is typically used when referring to immigration — not firearms — but the term has been co-opted by gun-rights activists in recent years.

“The term ‘sanctuary city’ is a broad term applied to jurisdictions that have policies in place designed to limit cooperation with or involvement in federal immigration enforcement actions. Cities, counties and some states have a range of informal policies as well as actual laws that qualify as ‘sanctuary’ positions,” according to CNN.

By this loose definition, a gun sanctuary city or county would, in theory, refuse to cooperate with federal entities if gun rights were restricted by new laws.

The Second Amendment to the United States Consitution reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

And Article VI of the Constitution reads, “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

This means that federal law and the Constitution supersede any state or local laws — it is the supreme law of the land. Because U.S. citizens have the right to bear arms according to the Consitution, making declarations of ‘sanctuary city/county’ status purely symbolic, something Pender County Chairman George Brown noted in addressing the issue.

“Every now and then, commissioners feel like they need to take a stand on something, and I think this is one of those times,” Brown said. “This is symbolic. We’re just letting the state legislature and the lawmakers in Washington know that we really do not want you to infringe anymore on our Second Amendment rights.”

Pender County Commissioner Jackie Newton was one of the dissenting members of the board calling the resolution unnecessary and frivolous.

“I will support no part of this,” Newton said, “In my opinion, we convene as the Board of County Commissioners to run the business of the county, not to dictate the politics of our citizens. This is an issue, as I see it, of individual rights versus public safety. To coin ourselves as a ‘gun sanctuary’ is a slap in the face to everyone who has lost a family member or a loved one in Parkland, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, night clubs, theaters, and churches across this country.”

As of just a few days ago, a petition to make New Hanover County a ‘sanctuary county’ was created online and already has close to 500 signatures at the time of publication. However, New Hanover County commissioners have not publically discussed the possibility of taking up the idea as a formal motion.

Port City Daily reached out to Williams, as well as New Hanover County Commission Chairwoman Julia Olson-Boseman, for comment but at the time of publication, have not received a response.

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