By Tim Gardner
Any debate over whether or not Avery County should declare itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” has long been over as its County Commissioners and County Manager have expressed a single resounding opinion: yes, it should. In fact, the Commissioners have adopted a resolution in support of the protection of The Right To Bear Arms.
The Avery County Commissioners currently consist of: Chairperson Martha Hicks; Vice-Chairman Tim Phillips; Blake Vance, Dennis Aldridge; and Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr. Avery’s County Manager is Phillip Barrier, Jr.
Vance was Vice-Chairman of the County Commission when it adopted the resolution last year (June Board of Commissioners meeting).
The resolution cites The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Article 1, Section 30 of the Constitution of the State of North Carolina, both which state: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.”
The resolution also reads that the County Commissioners recognize the role of reasonable government to restrict the possession of firearms from those who have committed crimes and from those with mental illness. However, at the same time, they recognize the unassailable right of law-abiding citizens to purchase, own and possess firearms. And this right of law-abiding citizens is free from unreasonable restraint and regulation as protected by both the United States and North Carolina Constitutions.
“Myself, the other county commissioners and county manager strongly support the protected right for our citizens to bear arms under the Second Amendment and we felt we should officially declare that support through the means of a resolution,” Commissioner Hicks stated.
Gun sanctuary policies have become a flashpoint between many. As judicial, legislative and executive elections resulted in political party control changes in some states, gun control issues have become a hot topic at the local level.
The issue has unfolded in city and town council and county commissioners’ meetings across the country. Gun owners are demanding that their government leaders establish sanctuaries for gun rights.
Gun control advocates have proposed an array of new restrictions, including universal background checks, bans on semi-automatic rifles, magazine size limits and red flag laws that would allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from people alleged to be dangerous to themselves or others.
One gun control policy has enraged gun rights advocates and helped fuel the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement. The bill, as initially proposed, would make it a felony to sell, manufacture, purchase or possess assault weapons and certain magazines.
The current Second Amendment movement began last year in Illinois and quickly spread to numerous states, including California, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida and North Carolina.
Many Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions are already in place across the United States, including the one the Avery Commissioners adopted.
Resolutions, promoted heavily by Second Amendment groups, vary from county-to-county or parish-to-parish in each state, but most declare the intention of local officials to oppose any “unconstitutional restrictions” on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
Various North Carolina counties have adopted resolutions similar to one Avery has in support of The Second Amendment, including Cherokee, Lincoln, Rowan, Rutherford, Surry and Wilkes.
More than 100 counties, cities and towns in Virginia have approved such resolutions.
Although the sanctuary resolutions are symbolic and carry no actual authority, they generally indicate that a local government doesn’t consider laws–especially gun laws that prohibit or restrict the right to bear arms– constitutional.
While the doctrine of judicial review grants the United States Supreme Court and the lower courts the power to determine the constitutionality of any law, including all gun laws, law enforcement officers on all levels–Federal, State and Local—are legally bound to enforce existing laws.
However, laws can be changed at all levels, and regardless of whether or not they are changed, Hicks said she believes the overwhelming majority of Avery County’s citizens support Second Amendment status.
“There were a lot of people who encouraged the County Commissioners to support such a resolution expressing the county’s support of The Second Amendment. I also believe the law enforcement officers who work in the county strongly support it as well. And I can ensure Avery County citizens that this Board of Commissioners and our County Manager will always fight feverishly and without compromise for their right to bear arms.”