Polk County Commissioner John Hall wants to make the county a Second Amendment sanctuary, part of a nationwide movement against proposed restrictive gun laws.
BARTOW – The Polk County Commission will consider becoming a sanctuary county for gun rights under the Second Amendment.
The commission on Tuesday instructed County Attorney Michael Craig to research the relevant law and to present his findings at a future meeting. Craig told The Ledger after the meeting he expects to complete his research and present his findings to the commission at its Jan. 3 or Jan. 17 agenda review meeting.
Commissioner John Hall requested Craig look into a sanctuary measure because he feels Second Amendment rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution are threatened by recent efforts for tighter restrictions on gun possession and ownership. Those efforts appear to be gaining momentum recently after well publicized mass shootings in recent years.
“Every time a deranged person picks up a gun and kills people, those of us who are legal gun owners come under attack,” Hall told The Ledger after the meeting. “We should defend the rights of our citizens on all constitutional rights.”
Other commissioners agreed to have Craig research this issue with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Chairman Bill Braswell said he didn’t know whether such a sanctuary measure is necessary but agreed to have the commission look at Craig’s findings. Commissioners Martha Santiago and Rick Wilson agreed.
“I think of this as political theater,” Commissioner George Lindsey said. “This seems to be a solution looking for a problem.”
The Second Amendment sanctuary movement appears to have gained momentum as a backlash against the movement for more restrictive gun laws.
In Virginia, for example, more than 40 local governments passed such measures after control of its legislature passed from Republicans to Democrats last month, according to a Dec. 11 story in USA Today. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has said he would support measures such as universal background checks for gun purchases, limits on the sale of certain types of firearms and a so-called “red flag” law allowing authorities to take guns from persons posing a danger to themselves or others, as determined by a court.
The various sanctuary measures adopted so far vary widely in scope and impact, according to internet research by The Ledger.
Some measures, such as a resolution passed by the Lake County Commission on Nov. 5, go no further than declaring the county a Second Amendment sanctuary and its support for those rights. The Ledger obtained a copy of that resolution.
Other measures go a step further and declare county officials will not cooperate with federal or state law enforcement authorities carrying out gun restrictions they consider unconstitutional.
That’s similar to the stance taken by some local governments over cooperating with federal officials enforcing immigration laws considered too harsh or illegal. That gave rise to the term “sanctuary city” or county.
Most Second Amendment sanctuary measures fall along these lines.
But a few, including some Virginia localities, declare their right to nullify any state or federal gun laws they consider unconstitutional, according to a Dec. 11 article on the news site Slate.com.
Hall told The Ledger he favored a nullification measure if the Legislature or Congress passed a gun law he considered unconstitutional.
He would not advocate nullifying a law found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, Hall said.
“The Supreme Court will be the ultimate decider of the Constitution,” he said.
Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said he was a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and advocates that citizens carry concealed weapons through the state’s licensing process.”
But he said he could not support a local law that instructed him to ignore state and federal gun laws.
“State and federal laws always supersede a county ordinance,” Judd told The Ledger. “What I would do as a law enforcement officer is enforce the laws of the state of Florida and the United States of America.”
Judd said he has reviewed dozens of Second Amendment sanctuary laws across the country and agreed they fall along the three categories outlined above.
Hall distinguished between Second Amendment and immigration sanctuary measures because the latter involved people breaking the law to enter and reside in the U.S., he said.