In a largely symbolic move, Barrow County has officially declared itself a “Second Amendment sanctuary.”
During its Tuesday, Feb. 11 meeting, the county board of commissioners approved a resolution that would support the sheriff’s discretion to not enforce any federal or state firearms laws that the county deems unconstitutional, and that the county would not use any county money to enforce those laws.
But the board chose not to pass a revised resolution suggested by the county attorney’s office that would have softened and clarified some of the language.
One clause of the resolution passed Tuesday states that “all federal acts, laws, orders, rules or regulations regarding firearms, firearms accessories and ammunition are a violation of” the U.S. and state constitutions. It was not made clear in the resolution whether that statement would apply to restrictions such as guns being prohibited on school campuses or convicted felons being barred from having a gun, though it does leave the discretion to the sheriff.
County attorney Angie Davis, at the board’s Jan. 28 work session, had suggested that sentence be changed to “…certain federal acts, laws, orders, rules or regulations…may be a violation of the Second Amendment and inconsistent with” the state constitution.
The Georgia Constitution states that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but the General Assembly shall have powers to prescribe the manner in which arms may be borne.”
Davis had also suggested the board modify a clause that stated the board would not “authorize or appropriate funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers or offices for the purpose of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of any acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations that infringe on the right by the people to keep and bear arms,” saying that could create some potential legal issues.
Board chairman Pat Graham, who advocated for the sanctuary resolution to be put before the board, had county manager Mike Renshaw read the original resolution out loud in its entirety at Tuesday’s meeting and then made a motion to approve it without the suggested revisions being read.
The vote was 5-1 with commissioner Rolando Alvarez opposed and commissioner Ben Hendrix absent. Alvarez said he supported the county being a “Second Amendment sanctuary” but wanted the board to approve the revised resolution that the county attorney’s office provided.
“They’re the experts; I am not,” Alvarez said.
Barrow County is one of several counties around the state and the nation to declare themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” in recent months. The push comes amid a series of sweeping gun-control laws passed in Virginia that sparked the ire of gun rights advocates.
The newly Democratic-controlled legislature in Virginia has passed several bills — with Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s support — largely in response to a high-profile mass shooting at a municipal center in Virginia Beach that left 12 people dead. The most recently-passed legislation bans the sale of certain semi-automatic firearms as well as silencers and magazines that hold more than 12 rounds. Other laws passed include universal background checks, limiting handgun purchases to one per month and “red flag” legislation that would allow officials to keep people determined to be a danger to others and/or themselves from having guns.
Habersham County last month became the first county in Georgia to declare itself a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” and several others around northeast Georgia, including Jackson County last week, have followed suit.
When the board approved Tuesday’s resolution, it was met with applause from a packed meeting room at the historic Barrow County Courthouse.
During a public comment period, Winder resident Ken Young said any watered-down version of the resolution would be a “disservice to the law-abiding citizens of our county.”
“Major changes that gut the original intent of that original resolution are not in your best interests, in my opinion,” Young said. “The nonsense in Virginia should be a wake-up call for all. I have equal concern for unconstitutional state laws as well as I do federal laws. And we can extend that to local laws and ordinances as well.
“Any unconstitutional acts by any government that would take away the Second Amendment or infringe on that particular right, that needs to be covered by this resolution.”