Several U.S. Counties Refuse to Enforce Gun Control Laws

By Shani Saxon Mar 04, 2019

A growing number of counties in Washington, Oregon, New Mexico and Illinois are refusing to adhere to gun control laws because they say the statutes infringe on residents’ constitutional right to bear arms, according to a report in Reuters

These districts call themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries," an idea they borrowed from liberal-leaning sanctuary cities, which are jurisdictions that refuse to hold immigrants with undocumented status for federal officers. Gun sanctuaries are heralded by "local conservatives" who want to rebel against majority Democratic rule at the state level. As an example, in states where new gun control laws have raised the legal age for gun ownership to 21, officials in these jurisdictions might opt to refuse to punish 18- to 20-year-olds for having firearms. 

According to the Reuters report, this type of resistance complicates Democrats’ efforts to enforce new gun laws, "even though the party holds the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature in all four states." The idealogical rift between urban centers and rural areas is highlighted by the growing sanctuary movement, “as small, conservative counties push back against statewide edicts passed by big city politicians."

Dave Campbell, a member of the board of Effingham County, Illinois, spoke to Reuters about the resistance to gun reform. "If they want to have their own laws, that’s fine," Campbell says. "Don’t shove them on us down here." Effingham County is roughly 215 miles south of Chicago.

Support for Second Amendment sanctuaries has picked up steam recently, especially in counties in New Mexico and Illinois, according to Reuters. "Sixty-three counties or municipalities in Illinois have passed some form of a firearms sanctuary resolution and more are likely to," Campbell insisted. Additionally, as the report states, "Twenty-five of New Mexico’s 33 counties have passed resolutions to support sheriffs who refuse to enforce any firearms laws that they consider unconstitutional, according to the New Mexico Sheriffs Association." 

Jonathan Lowy, chief counsel of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, tells Reuters the legality of these actions is highly questionable. "It should not be up to individual sheriffs or police officers deciding which laws they personally like," Lowy said. "This attitude shows a disrespect for the way our system of government is supposed to operate."