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Seeking Sanctuary for the Second Amendment

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Steven Senne

MADISON — More than 20,000 gun-rights activists marched on Richmond, Virginia's Capitol Monday in opposition to sweeping gun-restriction legislation. Gov. Ralph Northam’s “State of Emergency” ban on guns at the statehouse only underscored for many the importance of Second Amendment sanctuaries. 


Demonstrators, marching on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, chanted, “We will not comply.” They turned out in protest of the Democrat-led Senate’s recent passage of bills that would require background checks on all firearms, limit firearms purchases, and allow local governments to ban guns from public events. 

Mainstream media outlets marveled that the pro-Second Amendment rally ended without violence, perhaps an admission of what they think of law-abiding gun owners — described by NBC News as “largely white and diverse in age.” 

Fears of violence turned out to be overblown. Virginia’s liberal governor last week declared a state of emergency that banned guns and other weapons from the Capitol grounds. Northam cited “credible intelligence” that “armed militias and hate groups” threatened violence. 

So much for due process, sacrificed, as constitutional rights are so often sacrificed, in government claims of “clear and present danger.” 

Northam’s gun ban and Virginia’s gun-control legislation to many gun-rights defenders, will only strengthen the argument and need for local Second Amendment sanctuaries. Today, more than 400 local jurisdictions in 20 states — including in Wisconsin — have adopted resolutions declaring gun-rights sanctuary zones, according to the Los Angeles Times. Effingham County, Ill., was the first, nearly two years ago, passing a resolution barring county “employees from enforcing the unconstitutional actions of the state government” as it relates to gun control.  


In November, Florence County in northeastern Wisconsin declared itself a Second Amendment sanctuary, sending a message to politicians to “keep your hands off our guns.” The nonbinding measure gives the sheriff the authority to “exercise sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law.”  

The resolution was a response to Democrat Gov. Tony Evers’ call last year for a special session on gun-restriction laws, Florence County Supervisor Edwin Kelley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

Last week, the Merrill City Council passed a resolution declaring the city a Second Amendment sanctuary. A Lincoln County supervisor has proposed a similar resolution for the entire county.  

The question is, how much teeth do the resolutions really have? And how would they stand up to legal challenges? 

Nik Clark, chairman and president of Wisconsin Carry Inc., said the answer remains unknown because, as Wisconsin Carry’s attorneys like to say, it’s HBL — Hasn’t Been Litigated. It undoubtedly will, and probably soon.

Still, Clark is all for such sanctuaries because it puts local government officials on record as to their support or opposition to gun rights.  

“Alderman and County Board supervisors are often the ones running for higher office in the future (State Assembly and State Senate),” he said in an email to Empower Wisconsin. “If they don’t have the stones to support the 2A on a simple county resolution they sure can’t be counted on to pass anything substantive like changing the law so parents aren’t felons for dropping kids off at school while armed.”


Clark said sanctuary designations are about playing offense, forcing the anti-gun crowd to play defense for once. And the movement is capturing enough media attention “to let squishy Republicans in Madison know there is A LOT MORE support for gun rights” than the mainstream media reports. 

With increased constitutional assaults on law-abiding gun owners like the bans and confiscation laws being proposed in Virginia, Wisconsin and elsewhere, Clark and other gun-rights advocates see growing support for Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions. 

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