In a unanimous vote before an enthusiastic audience, the Letcher County Fiscal Court has declared Letcher County as a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
The vote took place at a special called meeting December 30, which was held in the Circuit Courtroom to accommodate the large crowd. When the vote for Resolution 2019-59 was final, the standing-room audience erupted in applause. By passing the resolution, Letcher County joined counties in Tennessee, Virginia and other states that have already passed similar nonbinding measures. Thirteen other Kentucky counties have also approved the resolution.
Ordinances carry the force of law, but resolutions such as the one passed by the fiscal court express the feelings of officials who pass them, but are not enforceable .
The resolution states that the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the nation, and quotes the Second Amendment which states “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” It also references the Due Process Clause of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, which states that no state can deprive any person “of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
The resolution states that the court is concerned about the passage of any bill containing language that could be interpreted as infringing on the rights of the citizens of Letcher County to keep and bear arms. It expresses opposition to any law that would unconstitutionally restrict that right.
It goes on to declare that the court “wishes to express its intent to stand as a Sanctuary County for Second Amendment Rights.” The resolution opposes any effort to unconstitutionally restrict this right, within the limits of the U.S. Constitution or the Kentucky Constitution. It goes on to say the court will uphold the Second Amendment, but no county funds will be used to restrict the Second Amendment.
Judge/Executive Terry Adams told the crowd he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and said he believes a gun is just a tool until a person picks it up and uses it. He added that “if people allow them (guns) to be taken away, I believe America will not stand.” Adams said he will send the resolution to Frankfort and hopes that other counties will take a similar position.
The issue was raised at last month’s regular court meeting by David Johnson of Fleming-Neon, who identified himself as a militia member and a “Constitutionalist.” Johnson said he was concerned about the adoption of “Red Flag” laws in neighboring Virginia. The proper term for Red Flag Laws is Extreme Risk Laws. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have all passed Extreme Risk Laws and, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, 75 percent of registered gun owners support them. Under current federal law, a person is prevented from having a firearm only if they fall into one of several relatively narrow categories, such as being convicted of certain crimes, or having been adjudicated as mentally ill or committed involuntarily to a psychiatric hospital.
Extreme Risk Laws have generated a good deal of controversy on both federal and state levels. President Donald Trump initially said he would support Red Flag Laws and background checks following several shooting incidences this past summer. Then in August, he said he would leave firearm regulation up to Congress.
There were no opposing opinions expressed in the packed courtroom, but a number of Letcher County residents spoke in favor of the resolution. The most common opinion was that citizens have a traditional right to possess firearms and it is protected by the Constitution. A number of people expressed the fear of forcible confiscation of firearms by the federal government, and some said they feared that if firearms are confiscated Americans would be enslaved.
William Lyons, who identified himself as a Hazard attorney who no longer practices law, said he is a long-range firearms instructor who “border jumps” or is licensed in both Kentucky and Virginia. Lyons said he and other instructors teach shooting skills and firearms safety to Boy Scouts and church groups. He said that because of Virginia’s “bleeding blue government,” he fears that Virginia State Police will arrest instructors as felons.
Tim Caudill, a Letcher County veteran, said he owns two shotguns said he believes homeowners have right to protect themselves. Ernest Begley added that he is encouraged to see people coming out to make their views known.
While the resolution is nonbinding, Adams told the Lexington Herald-Leader, “I hope this sends a message to our folks in Frankfort and our folks in Washington that we will not stand by and let our rights be taken away.”
In Illinois, 67 of 102 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions. Similar resolutions have been approved in 87 of 95 Virginia counties and in 13 of 95 Tennessee counties.
The term “sanctuary” was used in creation of the resolutions as a dig at communities that have passed similar resolutions refusing to spend local tax dollars to enforce federal immigration laws. State Sen. Danny Carroll, Republican of Paducah, has pre-filed a bill requiring public employees statewide to use their “best efforts” to support federal immigration laws, and would specifically outlaw “sanctuary policies.”