Editorial: Second Amendment sanctuaries would be dangerous

Editorial Board • Dec 2, 2019 at 11:15 AM

One of the more foolish and dangerous resolutions making the rounds is the so-called Second Amendment Sanctuary status. On the surface — which is as far as too many people get anymore when doing research — it sounds like an effort to protect our right to keep and bear arms, an effort we wholeheartedly support. In reality, it supports unrestricted access to weapons by the potentially violent mentally ill and those who are a danger to themselves and others.

A number of counties and states, through declarations of sheriffs or votes by governing bodies, have declared their counties Second Amendment Sanctuaries and say they will not enforce gun safety laws on the grounds that they aren’t constitutional.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter that they could arm a dangerous mentally ill citizen. They take the Second Amendment at face value, that every citizen has a right to walk around with a gun on their hip. But while the Second Amendment states citizens may bear arms as do militias, courts over the years have wisely put in place some limitations. State militias carry automatic weapons, but courts have ruled that the citizenry may not. Militias don’t undergo gun licensing, but courts have upheld states’ ability to conduct background checks.

Given countless shootings across the nation, including the senseless and heartbreaking slaughter of children, there have been calls to take away our constitutional right to be armed. Everyone should oppose these efforts and demand this fundamental right be preserved.

But we should also recognize that people who are mentally ill shouldn’t have access to weapons. Extreme risk laws allow family members or law enforcement officers to petition courts to temporarily disarm individuals who are mentally ill to the point of being a danger to themselves or others or are in temporary crisis. These laws have been shown to be effective at preventing gun suicides, which make up two-thirds of all firearm deaths in the U.S. They also prevent such individuals from having access to weapons by which to commit heinous crimes such as mass murder.

These are the very laws that this so-called sanctuary effort intends to block. Does that make any sense? By obstructing these necessary and critical tools that save lives, sanctuary resolutions threaten the very residents they claim to protect. And they give ammunition to those who argue to dismantle the basic tenets of the Second Amendment.

And there’s no doubt about their intent. A resolution sponsored by Sullivan County Commissioners Hunter Locke and Gary Stidham is in direct response to proposed extreme risk laws at the state and federal level that allows a state court to prohibit a person who is a danger to themselves or others from owning, purchasing or receiving firearms or ammunition. The resolution states the county is opposed to any state and federal law that infringes on the Second Amendment right for citizens to bear arms.

After nearly every mass shooting we hear reports that the shooter had demonstrated mental instability. Why in the world would we prevent a court from protecting society by removing access to weapons when we know of individuals who pose a threat? Why would we deny a family from being able to have a court take guns away from a suicidal family member?

Extreme risk laws make sense. They help prevent harsher measures that threaten our Second Amendment rights. Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions do just the opposite.