‘Gun Sanctuary’ debate comes to Macon County

On the heels of state vs. federal gun rights debates, gun owners are demanding that their local government leaders establish sanctuaries for gun rights.

The “sanctuary” movement began last year in Illinois and quickly spread to numerous states, including California, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida and most recently, North Carolina. Gun owners are asking their local governments to consider resolutions, promoted heavily by Second Amendment groups, which vary from county to county, but most declare the intention of local officials to oppose any “unconstitutional restrictions” on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

In the last two months, more than 100 counties, cities and towns in Virginia alone have approved such resolutions. The debate, however, isn’t a new one. Gun control advocates want to strengthen restrictions and include universal background checks; gun rights advocates want to ensure that their rights are not infringed upon in the process.

A growing list of counties in North Carolina are becoming Second Amendment sanctuaries, and residents approached Macon County leaders during the public comment period of the monthly board meeting Tuesday night. The already established sanctuaries are areas that have adopted resolutions where county leaders say they’re standing up for the Second Amendment and won’t enforce certain gun control measures.

Many times, the moves are symbolic and show that officials plan to defy state or federal efforts to restrict gun rights. Cherokee County North Carolina was the first to pass such a resolution earlier last year. Cherokee County has ruled that it will “not authorize or appropriate government funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers or offices for the purpose of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of such acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations, that infringe on the right by the people to keep and bear arms.”

In theory, the declaration of a gun sanctuary county or city shows that area supports the Second Amendment, however in practice, the declaration carries little to no weight. Most states such as Virginia who have had counties pass such resolutions are facing proposed state legislature that they believe would impose on their Second Amendment right.

North Carolina does not have any such laws proposed, but counties view themselves as taking a proactive approach in case it was to happen. The Macon County Board of Commissioners held Tuesday night’s meeting in the large courtroom to allow the standing-room-only crowd extra space.

Spectators lined the walls to show their support of commissioners considering a resolution signifying Macon County as a gun sanctuary county. Supporters were led by Donnie Holden who gave a presentation on the importance of such a resolution and asked commissioners to take up a vote on the matter in February during their next meeting. A handful of other residents spoke in addition to Holden, encouraging commissioners to consider the designation as a means of taking a proactive approach to protecting Second Amendment rights. Sheriff Robert Holland said that he was happy to see citizens of Macon County bring the issue to the commissioners’ attention and looks forward to the dialogue surrounding the issue.

“People have a right to voice their concerns and I always encourage people to get involved with their local government and the process,” said Sheriff Holland. “The 2nd Amendment issue is incredibly important and if citizens are concerned their ‘Gun Rights’ are in jeopardy of being infringed upon then they need to let their local government know. We’ve seen resolutions passed regarding the Second Amendment in other jurisdictions and while people have been talking about their concerns locally, last night Mr. Holden actually did something about it… he got involved. I commend him and support his right to do so. I’m not sure exactly what will happen from here but one thing is for sure, because of his willingness to step forward the issue will now become a much greater topic of discussion amongst our local government leaders… and decisions will be made concerning it. Anyone that would criticize a persons right to voice their concerns related to the ‘Second Amendment’ obviously wouldn’t feel the same if the ‘First Amendment’ was that being infringed upon.”

The concept of gun sanctuary areas has become a platform for Republican candidates. Both Lt. Dan Forest, who is running for Governor and Wayne King, who is running for Congress, released statements on Tuesday in support of the symbolic measure.

By Brittney Lofthouse

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