They said we were making symbolic gestures that had no teeth. They laughed off our grassroots efforts to protect our rights locally and credited the “gun lobby” as the citizens of county after county stood up for the Second Amendment. Yet, we now stand at a major milestone for this organic movement. Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of thousands of patriots across our great nation, we have passed Second Amendment Sanctuary County Resolutions in more than one-third of the counties in the United States of America. Who is laughing now?
A long journey
They say that a journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step. Coincidentally, the journey to more than one thousand Sanctuary Counties starts with a single county willing to take that step. Who would have imagined that a small county in west-central Illinois would kick off a movement that spread across more than one-third of the country? On June 22, 2007, Brown County, IL became the first county that we are aware of to have passed one of these resolutions in support of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Since that fateful day, more than 1,165 counties across this country have passed Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions. There are 3,141 counties or county-equivalents in the United States. This means that more than 37% of American counties are now Second Amendment Sanctuaries.
What is a Second Amendment Sanctuary County?
A Second Amendment Sanctuary County is simply a county in which the citizens have petitioned their local government to pass a resolution or an ordinance that upholds the God-given rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and denounces any attempts to infringe on those rights. Some people consider the term “Sanctuary County” to be associated with the term “Sanctuary City” which is often used to refer to cities that have decided to take it upon themselves to act in contradiction to federal immigration laws and harbor illegal immigrants. While there is a similarity in the name, the intent is vastly different. I could not tell you who it was that decided to adopt the “Sanctuary” moniker, but we have effectively hijacked it to use for our own purposes. When we use the terms, “Sanctuary County” or “Sanctuary City,” we are using them to refer to sanctuaries where the practice of one’s Right to Keep and Bear Arms is respected and encouraged. Where liberal “Sanctuary Cities” are intended to violate immigration laws, our “Sanctuary Counties” are intended to uphold the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.
If you visit our “Resolutions” page, you can view hundreds of the Pro-Second Amendment resolutions that we have been able to gather since we started archiving this movement back in December of 2019. You will notice that there are many clauses that are similar across a number of these resolutions. Generally, there is a clause that introduces the text of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (i.e. Right to Keep and Bear Arms will not be infringed). Sometimes that is followed by language from the state Constitution that is often similar to the Second Amendment (many states codify the Right to Keep and Bear arms within their state constitutions as well).
Often we find that there are references to court cases where the Right to Keep and Bear Arms was upheld. District of Columbia v. Heller is one that is often cited in these resolutions. Some resolutions also include information about the benefits to the county (or city) that will accrue due to the ability to engage in various forms of firearms recreation (i.e. hunting and shooting). Some of the more controversial clauses in these resolutions (often more controversial than the use of the term, “sanctuary”) involve the county declaring that it will not use any county funds or resources to enforce any unconstitutional gun laws.
There are sometimes other clauses included in these resolutions, but the ones above are the basic clauses that most of the resolutions have in common. In general, the Second Amendment Sanctuary County resolution is written so as to make a statement indicating that the board of commissioners of the county (or other legislative body or government official with the power to make such a declaration) supports the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and intends to uphold it within their county.
What do we include as a Second Amendment Sanctuary County?
This is a rather difficult judgement call to make. We have found that many of the resolutions that have been passed were more heavily in favor of the Second Amendment, while others appeared to be watered down to the point of basically saying nothing of note. We may one day come up with an official rating system for these counties, but in general if a county passes a resolution that supports the Second Amendment, then we consider it in our count, even if it is not a very strong resolution.
Do we include state-level Second Amendment Sanctuaries?
At the time of this writing, there are four states that have passed Second Amendment Sanctuary laws at the state-level. Those states are Alaska, Idaho, Kansas and Wyoming. We do count the counties within those states as Second Amendment Sanctuaries. There have also been a number of counties within those states that have taken it upon themselves to pass Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions at the county-level. We highly encourage all counties in Second Amendment Sanctuary States to pass their own local Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions as well. We do not count a county twice if it is both a state-level and county-level Second Amendment Sanctuary.
Do we include Constitutional Carry states?
No. We applaud those states that have passed Constitutional Carry laws, however we are focusing specifically on states, counties and cities that are passing resolutions in support of the Second Amendment, with an emphasis on opposing unconstitutional gun laws.
Does a county have to use the term “Sanctuary County” to be included?
No. There are states, like Michigan, where the use of the term “Sanctuary County” in the resolutions is considered mandatory in order to be counted by those who are leading those efforts. However, as we are tracking this movement at a national level, we have to be more open to including other terminologies. Many counties don’t like using the term “Sanctuary,” because it has connotations related to illegal immigration. We respect the preferences of these counties. As long as they pass a pro-Second Amendment resolution, we will include them.
How did we get here?
My interest in this movement came at a time of political upheaval in Virginia. Democrats had taken total control in our state and one of their major goals was the implementation of the types of gun control laws that you might find in a state like New York or California. Many of those laws would have resulted in turning previously law-abiding citizens into criminals for simply owning weapons or accessories that were on their list of banned items. Needless to say, Second Amendment supporters saw the writing on the wall, and it didn’t exactly sit well with us. In fact, it set in motion one of the most amazing grassroots movements that I have seen in my lifetime.
VCDL, a light in the darkness
As someone who was generally not involved in the political aspects surrounding the Second Amendment, I had generally just taken it as a given that our Second Amendment rights were going to be upheld in Virginia and never really considered that there might come a time when they might be taken away. So, when I saw what the Democrats’ plans were for infringing upon those rights, it was a dark and bleak time for myself and many other Virginians who support the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. I was motivated to get politically involved for first time in my life, but I didn’t know how I could contribute. It was about this time when I found out about the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) which had found a path and lit the way for us to fight back.
The VCDL was one of the foremost contributors to our efforts in Virginia to push forward with the Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties movement. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t credit other organizations, such as the Virginia Gun Owners Forum, whose maps I shared frequently at the early stages of this movement. I am sure there are many other organizations that were involved in some way so my hat goes off to them as well.
Philip Van Cleave, president of the VCDL was absolutely ubiquitous during the push to pass 2A Sanctuary resolutions in Virginia counties. The VCDL had provided sample resolutions on their website for counties to model their own after and Philip Van Cleave showed up at county board meetings all across Virginia. However, one thing that should be noted is that neither VCDL, nor Philip Van Cleave did all the work for us. Though they showed us the way, but we had to show up and make it happen. That is just what we did.
At county Board of Supervisors meetings throughout Virginia, we showed up in our hundreds and our thousands. Many patriots gave speeches to their boards of supervisors and many just came to show support. In the end, we were able to pass resolutions in support of the Second Amendment in about 95% of Virginia counties. However, the movement didn’t stop there.
Little did I know at the time that Virginia’s push for 2A Sanctuary Counties was just a new addition to a movement that had already been championed by patriots in many other states. Nor that it was destined to be a primer that would light off a massive expansion of this movement across the country.
What is next for this movement?
The Second Amendment Sanctuary Movement has not stopped yet and shows no signs of stopping any time soon. We have hit a milestone, but we are nowhere near done. The fact that nobody was really controlling this movement at a national level and yet it managed to still spread across a third of the counties in our great nation is absolutely amazing. If it were not for our website, I am not certain there would be any major sources actually tracking this movement nationally. And yet, somehow people in counties across the nation are driving these petitions, resolutions, board meetings, etc. forward on their own.
Don’t be like Virginia
Some may argue this point, but my opinion is that Virginians got complacent. The reason that I argue this, however is that all of this Second Amendment Sanctuary stuff could have been done prior to the election, yet it was not done. Instead of being proactive, we were reactive. It should be noted that our complacency was combined with an influx of cash from outside liberal megadonors like Mike Bloomberg, but the fact is that we got caught with our pants down and suffered the consequences. So, now you know. Now you have seen what it is like to be in a state that has millions of citizens who support the Second Amendment but were set upon by well financed individuals from outside our state. Your state could be next. Just ask Texas or Florida. There are gun-grabbing liberal billionaires pouring millions of dollars into those states trying to flip them. You may soon find yourself in the same position we were in. Trust me, it’s not fun.
Do not be complacent
The sad fact is that many of the counties that would have the easiest time passing these resolutions are in states that assume that they don’t need them. Guess what, Virginians thought the same thing and look at us now. We didn’t see the writing on the walls and we paid dearly for it. Do not be like us. Now is an opportunity for people in your county to make it clear to the individuals vying for political office in your state that you unreservedly support the Second Amendment and expect the same for your elected politicians. Why not get the tenor of the people to be validated by a vote on the County Board? By not having a vote on this matter in your county, you are not setting a precedent for people running for office in your county.
Your sphere of influence is more effective at the local level
Local politicians are not used to multiple thousands of people voicing their opinions on a particular topic. Why not get them acquainted with the notion when it comes to the Second Amendment? Why not get them on the record for or against the Second Amendment?
We barrage ourselves with news about political issues that are taking place on the national level and yet, there are things happening in our local political sphere that have much more impact on our daily lives. Even more important is the fact that we actually have the ability to sway matters in these local political arguments. We may not be able to sway the supreme court, but we can make an argument in front of the Board of Supervisors in our county and perhaps sway one of them to our side. You can make changes at a local level that you would have no chance of making in statewide or national levels.
Resolutions are good, but Ordinances are better
There are now hundreds of counties in our nation that have passed Second Amendment Sanctuary Resolutions. However, there are a few counties that either have passed or are working on passing Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinances (SASOs). In the state of Oregon, there are now four counties that have actually added SASOs to their November ballots. The general argument is that while Resolutions have symbolic meaning, Ordinances actually have teeth (i.e. the strength of law). If your county has already passed a 2A Sanctuary Resolution, congratulations! Now start working on passing an Ordinance.
State-level is good, but County-level is better
If your state has passed a 2A Sanctuary law / resolution, that is great. You should work on passing something at the County-level as well. If for no other reason than that voting on these issues puts your local politicians on the record regarding their support (or lack thereof) of your God-given Constitutional rights. Put these resolutions or ordinances in front of them and force them to vote Yes or No (or abstain). You will know them better if you do and you will also know whether they should get your support in the next election.
These resolutions don’t all have to be 2A related
We intend to publish some articles on this topic in the future, but there have now been a number of cities and counties that are using this “Sanctuary” concept in support of other important issues. In California, we’ve seen sanctuaries in support of businesses and the practice of religion. In Texas, we have seen multiple “Pro-Life Sanctuaries”. We have even seen sanctuaries against state and federal mask mandates and other health measures related to COVID-19. There is no rule that says that you can’t use this process to support other causes as well. We have a process that has a track record of success. Use it!