In light of Beto O’Rourke’s viral comment, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15,” many residents in Hood County became concerned about where local law enforcement stood on the issue.
“I have people ask me all the time, ‘What are you going to do to protect my gun? Are you gonna work with the feds to take my AR-15?’” said Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds a few weeks ago. “We’re not. We’re not going to do that. I’m going to work with the court. We’re going to try to pass a ‘sanctuary county’ bill.”
On October 8, the Hood County Commissioners’ Court passed a resolution declaring a “Second Amendment sanctuary county” for gun-owners by vowing not to enforce any unconstitutional firearm laws that could be enacted by the state or federal government.
“I overwhelmingly support this initiative,” said state Rep. Mike Lang (R-Granbury), chair of the House Freedom Caucus, “and it would not have been possible without the courageous support of Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds who has championed the issue and who would ultimately, along with the people, be the one to ensure the measure is enforced.”
Deeds’ push for Hood County to become a sanctuary county for the Second Amendment follows in the footsteps of four other Texas counties to pass such resolutions.
Edwards County passed the first resolution in Texas in June 2018. The official Facebook account for the county published a photo of the document along with a post arguing that the number of gun-related deaths is small compared to other fatalities.
“If the anti-gun movement focused their attention on heart disease,” the post reads, “even a 10 percent decrease in cardiac deaths would save twice the number of lives annually of all gun-related deaths (including suicide, law enforcement, etc.).”
The resolution, signed by the county judge and three of the four commissioners, stated that any gun law violating the federal or state constitutions would be viewed as unconstitutional by the commissioners’ court and that it would not authorize any enforcement of those laws.
Several potential laws were specifically mentioned, including “registration requirements for existing lawfully owned firearms,” “prohibitions, regulations, and/or use restrictions related to ownership of non-fully automatic firearms,” and expanded background checks.
Not quite a year after Edwards County passed their resolution, other counties in Texas began to follow suit.
In March 2019, Hudspeth County became a sanctuary county at the request of Sheriff Arvin West; the Democratic Commissioners’ Court in Presidio County made that county one in July; and Mitchell County joined the growing number in September.
Proponents of the measure point out that in some places — especially in rural areas — police officers can take up to an hour to respond to 911 calls. In such places, owning a gun is the most reliable means of self-defense.
Supporters want assurance that local law enforcement will not encroach on their constitutionally protected rights if O’Rourke’s gun confiscation policies — or, more likely, “red flag” laws or Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s suggestion of expanded background checks — are enacted.
Not all counties are embracing the idea, though. Three court commissioners in Brewster County, which neighbors Presidio County along the Texas-Mexico border, blocked the proposal in September to become a sanctuary for gun owners.
According to Marfa Public Radio, Brewster County Commissioner Sara Colando said that she was afraid the resolution would put the county in “dicey legal territory.”
The first Texas counties passing the resolution are certainly not among the first counties in the nation, though. Over half of the counties in Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, and Washington have passed resolutions to become Second Amendment sanctuaries.
Those states have seen stricter gun regulations in recent years.
The New Mexico legislature, for instance, passed a bill to expand background checks and looked into implementing some form of a red flag law.
According to Reuters, Sheriff Tony Mace of Cibola County said that he did not want to waste resources enforcing the new background check regulations.
“There are whole sanctuary county, city, and state movements, and those are essentially saying ‘Hey, we can shield immigrants from the federal law,’” Mace told Pacific Standard. “They’re picking and choosing which laws they want to follow as a state, so we’re thinking as a county, why can’t we take this back to our commissioners and say we’re going to draft a resolution that says our counties are Second Amendment sanctuary counties.”
With the support of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association, chaired by Mace, 25 out of the state’s 33 counties have passed some sort of resolution.
Gun restriction laws in other states may have prompted the majority of counties there to pass the Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions, but the four Texas counties becoming sanctuaries this year could be a sign that Texans are concerned that their right to bear arms is also threatened by politicians here.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.