by James A. Bacon
The Campbell County Board of Supervisors has voted to declare the county a “second amendment sanctuary.” It’s not clear from this WDBJ article exactly what that entails, but Wikipedia defines a second-amendment sanctuary as a jurisdiction that does not expend resources to enforce gun control measures perceived to violate the Second Amendment. The movement, which is particularly widespread in the West, is analogous to the “sanctuary city” movement in which local law enforcement refuses to cooperate with federal authorities in detaining illegal immigrants.
“We’re saying you have to defend our second amendment rights,” says James Borland, a member of the board of supervisors, which voted unanimously to pass the measure. WDBJ reports that the “resolution” will be conveyed to the General Assembly, “imploring lawmakers not to back laws that county leaders say target law-abiding gun owners.”
If declaring one’s county a “second amendment sanctuary” consists no more than forwarding a resolution to the state legislature, it’s harmless. If it means that local police and sheriffs cease enforcing locally unpopular gun laws, it is pernicious — just as sanctuary cities are pernicious. The trend of local politicians picking and choosing the laws they will support is extremely unhealthy.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, Virginia has two “sanctuary cities.” Arlington County will not honor an ICE detainer unless ICE first presents the sheriff’s office with a judicially issued warrant authorizing detention. Fairfax County will not honor an ICE detention at all. In the 2019 session, Governor Ralph Northam vetoed a Republican-sponsored bill that would have banned sanctuary city policies and would have required to notify federal immigrant officials of undocumented immigrants in their custody.
I suppose there is a certain tit-for-tat justice in a county declaring itself a second-amendment sanctuary: If blue jurisdictions declare themselves to be “sanctuaries” against laws and practices they don’t like, so can red jurisdictions.
But this road leads to anarchy. Local governments cannot pick and choose the laws they decide to enforce. Sure, local officials can set law-enforcement priorities, but they cannot unilaterally exempt themselves. First it’s sanctuary cities for immigration detention. Then for gun laws. Then for marijuana distribution. Then for some other drug. Then for abortion. Then for whatever the hell you want.
Americans have created a democratic republic that establishes a set of rules for governance. We agree to abide by the rules and honor the results even if we don’t like the results because we know that the alternative, anarchy, is even worse.
Sadly, a terrible example is being set by the nation’s leaders in Washington, D.C. Presidential candidate Trump famously declared that he might not honor the election results if he lost to Hillary Clinton. When he won and Clinton lost, Democrats promptly turned the tables. Declaring themselves the “resistance,” Democrats set about systematically undermining his administration by thwarting presidential appointments, unleashing an unprecedented volume of illegal leaks to the media, concocting a Russia-collusion conspiracy theory, and now seeking to impeach Trump over his conduct of foreign policy in the Ukraine. Both sides routinely accuse the other of lying, violating “norms,” and even breaking the law. The level of partisan animosity is terrifying.
Virginians can stand by as this distemper filters down to the conduct of state and local government, or we can combat it. If the United States deteriorates from a nation of laws into an anything-goes cage match, Virginia is our fall-back position. We are still a state of laws. Let’s keep it that way. I can think of few things that are more worth fighting for.