ROCKINGHAM — With commissioners expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution to make Richmond County a sanctuary for the Second Amendment, one group is expressing concern about the spontaneous movement across the Tar Heel State.
North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to reducing gun death and injury,” is opposed to such resolutions, which have been approved in more than 20 of the state’s 100 counties.
The resolutions sprang up across the nation after several gun-control measures were introduced in the Virginia legislature.
Becky Ceartas, executive director of NCAGV lists several reasons for the opposition.
“The courts are the ones that decide if a law is constitutional or not,” she said in an email on Monday. “Local government and law enforcement are not the ones that decide this. Courts have overwhelmingly upheld gun safety laws as fully compatible with the Second Amendment and their rulings have not been partisan.”
While agreeing with that statement, Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina, points out that the Supreme Court has also upheld the individual right to keep and bear arms — as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — in the cases D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago.
In 2012, a federal court also shot down a state law prohibiting the transportation of firearms during a declared state of emergency.
“While the bans imposed pursuant to these statutes may be limited in duration, it cannot be overlooked that the statutes strip peaceable, law abiding citizens of the right to arm themselves in defense of hearth and home, striking at the very core of the Second Amendment,” U.S. District Court Judge Malcom J. Howard wrote in the opinion for Bateman v. Purdue.
Howard went on to say:
“The problem here is that the emergency declaration statutes, are not narrowly tailored to serve the government’s interest in public safety. They do not target dangerous individuals or dangerous conduct. Nor do they seek to impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions by, for example, imposing a curfew to allow the exercise of Second Amendment rights during circumscribed times. Rather, the statutes here excessively intrude upon plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights by effectively banning them (and the public at large) from engaging in conduct that is at the very core of the Second Amendment at a time when the need for self-defense may be at its very greatest.”
Another point Ceartas brought up is that a local sheriff might take an “extreme stance” on not enforcing a gun law that they disagree with.
“For example, they might not use county resources, like staff time, to remove weapons from domestic abusers who make credible threats to harm a partner or child,” she said.
Joe Ward, a veteran law enforcement officer who began the petition to make Richmond County a sanctuary, told the RO last month that his intent is to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens, adding that more should be done to prosecute and punish those who break the already existing laws.
That online petition garnered more than 1,900 signatures.
Ceartas added that a county that refuses to enforce a state law opens itself up to lawsuits.
“We do not want tax dollars being used to cover court costs defending these resolutions,” she said.
The final concern from Ceartas is that supporting a sanctuary resolution “can harm a county’s economy.”
“We have seen corporations around the country adopt stricter gun policies,” she said.
Multiple media outlets have reported that businesses like Walmart, Kroger and Walgreen’s, among others, have requested that customers not carry firearms in their stores — even in open-carry states like North Carolina.
“We do not want to see potential businesses leave or not locate in a county because corporations are scared off by a resolution,” Ceartas said.
Most legal experts agree that a private business has the right to ban guns on its property.
“A retailer can refuse service to anyone so long as it is not on the basis of race, religion or another protected group,” University of California at Los Angeles Law Professor Adam Winkler told the New York Times in September. “That does not apply to gun owners.”
Of the counties where a resolution have been introduced, only Chowan County has voted it down.
Commissioner Ben Moss, the sole Republican on the board, is scheduled to introduce the resolution at Tuesday’s meeting, just after the public comment period.
However, a county policy forbids the public from speaking about items on the agenda, so no one will be able to voice their opinions for or against the resolution prior to the vote.
The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Courtroom C of the Richmond County Judicial Center.