- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Last week, the City Council of Roswell, New Mexico, passed a sanctuary resolution that had nothing to do with illegal immigration and everything to do with firearms.

In an 8-1 vote, the council declared Roswell a Second Amendment sanctuary city, joining dozens of other localities throughout the rural West offering safe havens to firearms owners from a tide of Democrat-driven gun control legislation that they consider unconstitutional.

“It’s our right to be able to keep and bear arms,” said Roswell City Councilor Savino Sanchez Jr., who voted for the resolution. “Little by little, they’re taking away our rights as gun owners.”

In New Mexico, 28 of the state’s 33 counties have approved similar sanctuary resolutions this year, sparked by a sweeping gun control package pushed by left-of-center Democrats who now dominate state government after riding November’s blue tsunami into office.

“Oh, it was more than just a change in the government,” Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh said. “A progressive tidal wave swept through New Mexico. There was a significant shift to the left end of the political spectrum.”

Other states where rural communities are embracing Second Amendment protection measures include Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, raising the hackles of Democrats who champion sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants but draw the line when it comes to firearms owners.

After 26 of Illinois’ 102 counties passed resolutions against the state legislature’s gun control push, a Democratic lawmaker swung back with a bill to ban localities from “restricting enforcement of any State law or regulation concerning the ownership or use of firearms,” as reported by the Illinois News Network.

Leading the charge in New Mexico and elsewhere are sheriffs, who argue that they lack the resources to monitor private firearms transfers, the technology to conduct more stringent background checks and the legal authority to confiscate firearms under “red flag” laws without search warrants.

“The legislators are treating the Second Amendment as a constitutional privilege and not a constitutional right,” said Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace, chairman of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association.

Sheriff Mace said he and others drafted the sanctuary resolution after their testimony against a slate of gun control bills at the state Capitol in Santa Fe “fell on deaf ears.”

“The counties are saying, ‘Hey, we listen to our citizens and we don’t agree with these overreaching laws, either,’” Sheriff Mace said. “The flip side of it is you have a lot of sheriffs who come out and say, ‘Hey, I believe that these laws are unconstitutional, they violate people’s rights, and they’re unenforceable. So we’re not going to enforce them.’”

In Roswell, Mr. Kintigh said he asked for a show of hands from the audience before the vote. More than 300 people raised their hands in support of the sanctuary measure, he said, while two were opposed.

“It’s taken off like wildfire,” Sheriff Mace said.

Democrats have defended the gun control legislation, insisting that the measures are constitutional and expressing confidence — at least publicly — that the sheriffs will enforce the laws.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, made that point this month after signing Senate Bill 8, which requires background checks for gun shows and private sales. Four other gun control bills failed to reach her desk before the legislative session adjourned Saturday.

“Even the sheriffs who brought these resolutions know these men and women who dedicate their lives to law enforcement, they will follow the law. They will enforce this law, they will do their job and duty,” Ms. Grisham said on KRQE-TV.

‘Truly grassroots’ movement

In Nevada, at least three sheriffs have said publicly that they cannot enforce Senate Bill 143, which requires background checks for all private gun sales, after newly elected Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, signed the bill last month.

“In Germany prior to WWII, we saw Hitler place restrictions on the public’s right to bear arms,” Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said in a letter to Mr. Sisolak. “I will not participate in the enforcement of this new law and certainly won’t stand silent.”

Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza urged the County Commission to approve a sanctuary measure, saying the “people of Elko County really need to step up and fight for their gun rights.”

“Our Second Amendment rights right now are being infringed on,” Sheriff Narvaiza told the Elko Daily Free Press. “California’s already seizing guns, other states are seizing guns, we’re just here to make sure that Elko keeps ours.”

In Colorado, five county commissions have approved sanctuary resolutions as the Democrat-led legislature advances a “red flag” bill that would allow authorities to confiscate the firearms of people deemed to be dangers to themselves or others. Republicans, who controlled the state Senate, blocked the measure last year.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said he was confident that the legislation “passes constitutional muster.”

“Our nation and state depends on the rule of law. All law enforcement officers swear an oath to uphold the rule of law,” Mr. Weiser, a Democrat, said in a statement. “I am confident that when and if the time comes, all law enforcement officials will follow the rule of law.”

The Second Amendment sanctuary movement has taken root even in the deep-blue Pacific Northwest, though the battle is taking place at the ballot box instead of the state legislature.

In Washington, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, is locked in a showdown with at least 13 sheriffs who have said they will await the outcome of a lawsuit before enforcing elements of Initiative 1639, a stiff gun control measure passed by voters in November.

The initiative raised the firearm-purchasing age from 18 to 21 and enhanced waiting periods, training and storage requirements for semi-automatic rifles, and established criminal liability for failing to “safely secure a firearm under certain conditions.”

Columbia County Sheriff Joe Helm called the measure “unconstitutionally vague” in a Feb. 11 open letter. Mr. Ferguson warned that law enforcement agencies that refuse to perform the enhanced background checks could be held liable.

“I am deeply concerned that the failure of local law enforcement to perform Initiative 1639’s background check requirement will jeopardize public safety in our state,” Mr. Ferguson said in a letter posted by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

In Oregon, where Democrats have long controlled state government, rural voters defied the blue wave in November by approving Second Amendment sanctuary measures in eight of 10 counties.

These are more than nonbinding resolutions. They are ordinances that “guarantee that no county funds will be used to enforce gun laws that are believed to violate the Second Amendment.” The goal is to pass them in every county in the state.

“I’ve gotten people who have never been active in politics circulating petitions” for an ordinance, said Rob Taylor, head of the Committee to Preserve the Second Amendment. “It’s truly grassroots. People are starting to wake up.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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