Gun rights advocates are pushing to create Second Amendment sanctuaries in a bid to flout federal gun laws

Texas Ft. Worth gun show
Guns for sale at a gun show in Fort Worth, Texas, July 10, 2016.

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is pushing for the state to become a Second Amendment sanctuary.
  • Second Amendment sanctuaries ignore federal or state gun laws they consider restrictive.
  • In recent years they’ve become a tactic among gun rights advocates to push back against federal restrictions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted in support of gun rights just hours before a deadly mass shooting in Bryan, Texas.

The shooting – the state’s 14th so far this year – left one dead and five injured and came at a particularly inopportune moment. Abbott is in the midst of a campaign to turn Texas into a Second Amendment sanctuary state – a state where federal gun restrictions would be ignored in favor of local laws more favorable to gun rights.

The legislation to make Texas a sanctuary state was introduced in February by Texas State Rep. Justin Holland. If passed, Texas will join Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Wyoming, and Arizona, along with around 400 counties in 20 states, that have also designated themselves as gun rights sanctuaries.

The push to make Texas a Second Amendment sanctuary comes amid several executive orders from President Joe Biden calling for increased gun control measures, including a push for “red flag” legislation modeling, an investment in evidence-based community interventions, and measures to stop the proliferation of “ghost guns” – guns made out of purchased parts that are untraceable by authorities.

“Basically, we’re freezing Texas state law and federal laws in place that have to do with guns,” Holland told The El Paso Times. “And (we’re) not recognizing, at the state level, any federal changes.”

What are Second Amendment sanctuaries?

Second Amendment sanctuaries are meant to combat the perceived infringement of gun rights in a variety of forms. Cities, counties, and states alike can and have declared themselves second amendment sanctuaries in the US.

Those infringements might include laws requiring universal background checks prior to gun purchase, or bans on particular weaponry, including assault and automatic weapons, or red flag laws that allow law enforcement or family members to “flag” that a person with a gun may be a danger to themselves or others.

Worker inspects AR-15 gun in Utah
A worker inspects an AR-15 gun at Davidson Defense in Orem, Utah on March 20, 2020. – Gun stores in the US are reporting a surge in sales of firearms as coronavirus fears trigger personal safety concerns.

The trend of Second Amendment sanctuary cities and states began in earnest in 2018, when Effingham County, Illinois, passed a series of resolutions opposing bump stock bans and a mandatory 72-hour waiting period on gun purchases, along with a litany of other gun control measures.

Since then, more than 70 counties in Illinois have passed some kind of Second Amendment sanctuary legislation, The Trace reported.

In 2019, more than 120 cities and counties in Virginia declared themselves gun rights sanctuaries, in backlash to a Democrat sweep in state elections.

Last week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill that bans local and state governments and agencies from enforcing federal gun laws that are “inconsistent with or more restrictive than state law.”

Ducey told reporters the law was meant to be “a proactive law for what is possible to come out of the Biden administration.”

black gun club
Members of the Hudson Valley Nubian Gun Club practice at a shooting range in Monroe, New York, on July 30, 2020.

‘Renegade’ sheriffs opt out of enforcing federal law

Second Amendment sanctuaries often emerge from a refusal to enforce existing federal law.

Often, that decision comes from so-called “renegade” sheriffs and police who simply choose not to recognize laws they feel step on gun owners’ rights.

They consider themselves “constitutional sheriffs” and believe, according to the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, that “the vertical separation of powers in the Constitution makes it clear that the power of the sheriff even supersedes the powers of the President.”

In Culpeper, Virginia, Sheriff Scott Jenkins went so far as to write on Facebook that “if necessary,” he would “properly screen and deputize thousands of our law-abiding citizens to protect their constitutional right to own firearms.”

Voters in Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Virginia, and Illinois, among others, have all passed resolutions in support of local sheriffs who believe federal gun laws are unconstitutional.

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A volunteer member of the congregation at Joyful Heart Church poses for a portrait with her concealed handgun inside the church in Stockdale, Texas on Sunday, January 26, 2020.

Even where Second Amendment sanctuary isn’t officially declared, some sheriffs have taken it upon themselves to buck federal gun laws.

Bob Norris, the sheriff of Kootenai County, Idaho, told reporters last month he wouldn’t enforce federal gun laws, regardless of whether the county voted to become a Second Amendment sanctuary or not.

“I would just like to tell you that regardless of what you decide here today, and regardless of what they decide in Washington, DC, there will be no gun confiscation here in Kootenai County,” Norris said at a local press conference. “Period.”

Three days after Norris’ press conference, the proposal to establish the county as a Second Amendment sanctuary fell flat after the Board of County Commissioners declined to support it by a vote of two to one.

Second Amendment sanctuary declarations are largely symbolic

But can these sanctuary declarations be enforced?

“A state, like Texas, declaring itself a “sanctuary” doesn’t invalidate federal law from operating in Texas,” Darrell Miller, co-faculty director of the Center for Firearms Law and a faculty member at Duke Law School, told Insider. If local law enforcement opts not to enforce gun laws, then “the FBI, ATF, and Department of Justice can still enforce federal law there.”

Miller cited the Supremacy Clause, which says that the Constitution “shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

gun control
A demonstrator holds a sign depicting an assault rifle at a protest against President Trump’s visit, following a mass shooting which left at least 22 people dead, on August 7, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. Protestors also called for gun control and denounced white supremacy. Trump is scheduled to visit the city today. A 21-year-old white male suspect remains in custody in El Paso which sits along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Second Amendment sanctuary declarations “don’t have force of law,” Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, told USA Today after local jurisdictions began passing gun sanctuary bills in the state. “They are policy statements. They don’t empower localities to turn a blind eye to what is state law.”

Sanford V. Levinson, a constitutional law scholar at the University of Texas Law School, told Insider sanctuary declarations don’t nullify existing federal laws, but they can make it difficult to enforce them – which is the point.

“The laws are not invalid; it’s simply that the national government will be left on its own re the mechanisms of enforcement,” he said – which, given limited resources and budgets, means the federal government will often turn a blind eye.

Should the government want to compel local authorities to enforce federal law, they’d likely run into problems because the Supreme Court has already ruled that the federal government can’t “commandeer” state officials to enforce federal law, Levinson said, citing New York vs. United States 505 US 144.

“It simply comes down to whether the federal government wants to make it a case. But if the national government is willing to pay the price, then it will prevail,” he continued.

“It’s one thing for the sheriffs to say, ‘We’re not going to lift a finger to help you take guns away from our people,'” Tung Yin, a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, told Oregon Live. “That’s OK. It’s another thing for the sheriffs to say, ‘Not only are we not going to lift a finger to help you, we’re going to do everything we can to stop you.'”

But that’s exactly what’s happened in Newton County, Missouri, where local lawmakers passed a Second Amendment Act that allows local law enforcement to arrest any federal agents attempting to enforce federal gun laws – though Miller says the statute isn’t actually enforceable.

Lindsey Graham shooting
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham uses images of handguns and rifles during a hearing about gun control on Capitol Hill January 30, 2013 in Washington, DC.

“The general proposition is that federal officers cannot be prosecuted by state or local authorities for acts done in furtherance of their official duties,” Miller told Insider, citing In re: Neagle, an 1890 Supreme Court case ruling that said federal agents are immune from local prosecution if operating in the furtherance of federal law.

Newton County, Missouri, Sheriff Chris Jennings did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Texas governor says shooting victim’s family wants Second Amendment sanctuary

The passage of ag Second Amendment sanctuary resolution is all but a foregone conclusion in Texas, a state where nearly half of all adult residents – 45.7% – live with a gun in the house, according to a 2020 Rand research project.

Gun control advocates say they’re gearing up for a court battle either way.

“The outcome for a bill like this would almost inevitably be a challenge in court,” Jim Henson, the executive director of The Texas Politics Project, told KXAN. “It’s hard not to see this as part of an effort to test the boundaries at how much states can push back against federal and constitutional provisions.”

During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Gov. Abbott told host Chris Wallace he spoke with the family of the victims of the Bryan, Texas, shooting, who told him they supported the sanctuary state plan.

“I went to the hospital where the victims’ families were on the night of the shooting. And we hugged, and we cried, and we talked to them about it. As I was talking to family members of one of the victims, they said: ‘Governor, please, do not allow this shooting to strip us of our Second Amendment rights,'” he said.

bryan texas shooting
Barricades block the road leading up to the entrance of Kent Moore Cabinets in Bryan, Texas after a mass shooting at the facility on on on on April 8, 2021.

While Second Amendment sanctuary status may be largely symbolic, it speaks to a growing divide in the US over gun violence and how to quell it, especially after a year in which firearm-related incidents took the lives of more than 19,000 people – the highest number of gun-related deaths in 20 years, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

“The nation has experienced a historic increase in violent crime in the past year. People want and need to protect themselves,” Joyce Malcolm, the Patrick Henry Professor of Constitutional Law and the Second Amendment at George Mason University School of Law, told Insider. “The number of FBI background checks for gun purchases continues to hit new records. January and March 2021 are the only time in the history of the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System gun checks have broken four million.”

According to the Washington Post, more than two million guns were sold in the US in January alone – an 80% increase over the same month in 2020.

“Americans are buying guns at a blistering pace,” Malcolm added. “They will NOT give them up.”

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2 hours after the mass shooting in Colorado, Rep. Lauren Boebert sent a campaign email encouraging supporters to say ‘HELL NO’ to gun control

Rep Lauren Boebert of Colorado
Rep Lauren Boebert of Colorado

  • Rep. Lauren Boebert was tweeting about Biden while a mass shooting was unfolding in her home state.
  • Following the shooting that left ten dead, Boebert said she was praying for those affected.
  • The representative’s campaign reportedly sent a pro-gun email to supporters two hours after the shooting.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

One of Congress’ most ardent Second Amendment supporters is facing backlash after a series of insensitive communications following a mass shooting that left ten dead in a Boulder, Colorado supermarket on Monday.

Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado has quickly made a name for herself as a pro-gun, right-wing ideologue during her short time in the House of Representatives, but her response to Monday’s shooting in her home state drew sharp criticism.

Reports of an active shooter situation at a King Soopers grocery store began circulating shortly before 3 pm local time. Thirty minutes later, a local livestream of the scene showed officers detaining a handcuffed, shirtless man who was covered in blood.

But as local law enforcement, media outlets, and politicians were awaiting more information about the incident, Boebert was tweeting about the US Southern border and President Biden.

“The White House just called a lid at 1:13pm today. Biden is back in the basement, figuratively at least,” she tweeted at 2:51 pm.

“Meanwhile, the country is in chaos and the border is coming apart at the seams,” she wrote.

Following a swift barrage of Twitter users blasting Boebert for her timing, the freshman representative issued a statement addressing the shooting.

“My prayers are with the shoppers, employees, first responders & others affected by the shooting in Boulder,” she tweeted. “May God be with them.”

Amid an ongoing spew of mass shootings in recent years, the stump phrase “thoughts and prayers” has become the go-to-response for many politicians, instead of tangible policy changes to address the gun violence epidemic in the United States.

But Boebert, who has hinted she carries a gun to work in the US Capitol and has appeared at a virtual committee meeting in front of a multi-gun display, was quickly back to championing gun rights Monday night.

Two hours after the shooting, Boebert’s campaign reportedly sent her supporters an email with a subject line that said, “I told Beto ‘HELL NO’ to taking our guns. Now we need to tell Joe Biden,” according to a tweet from journalist David Gura.

“Radical liberals in Washington, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and with President Biden’s blessing and support are trying to violate your due process and criminalize the private transfer of firearms,” a photo Gura tweeted of the email said. “Please help me stand up to the radical gun-grabbing left.”

She is the founder and owner of Shooters Grill, a Colorado restaurant infamous for staff that “proudly open carry as they serve their customers.”

Boebert has been a vocal opponent of gun control and background checks, often sharing a bogus story about a man being “beaten to death” outside her gun-themed restaurant as an avenue to advocate for gun rights. The local police department debunked her claims after an autopsy showed the man had died from a drug overdose.

Insider has reached out to Boebert’s campaign for comment.

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After the Capitol attack, lawmakers were quick to increase security for themselves. But after countless school shootings, we haven’t seen any gun reform.

Ruben Gallego Capitol Hill building siege attack riot
Rep. Rep. Ruben Gallego on a chair directing traffic as staffers and House members get safety hoods from under desks as protestors breach the Capitol building, January 6, 2021.

  • Lawmakers now join ranks with over 240,000 children who have experienced the trauma of gun violence and fear for their lives at school since 1999.
  • It’s been 27 years since any legislation to protect citizens from gun violence has passed — a law which lapsed just 10 years later.
  • It’s time for lawmakers to take the lives of our school children as seriously as they address their own personal safety.
  • Meg Poulin is a freelance writer focusing on women’s rights and parenting while raising her three young girls in Connecticut.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

On the day of the Columbine High School massacre, April 20, 1999, I was a junior in college. That afternoon, I turned on the TV and watched in horror as chaos unfolded in Littleton, Colorado, my hometown. I saw neighbors and friends crying in fear on national television. 

My mother, at that moment, was sitting with hundreds of distraught parents, holding her friend Cathy’s hand as they waited to hear if her sons were alive. One of Cathy’s sons watched his teacher bleed to death. One of her sons was locked in a crowded closet, listening to classmates die outside the door. They were among the last kids to tumble out of the mouth of a school bus, bloody and traumatized, into their mother’s arms.

Since the Columbine massacre, the US has seen the number of injuries and fatalities from school shootings rise steadily each year. According to data gathered by The Washington Post, more than 240,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine massacre. As a mother of three school-aged children, that number strikes at the heart. As our own lawmakers discovered on January 6, one does not need to be physically injured or killed to be irreparably changed by violence.

Since the insurrection at the Capitol, Congress has been demanding safety. They want to ensure that such violence and destruction is never repeated at their workplace. There is a call for permanent fencing around the Capitol complex. Members of the House are now required to move through metal detectors as they enter the chambers. On February 2, not even a month after the attack, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was calling for a 9/11-type commission to investigate and report on the security breach, pushing an “emergency supplemental funding bill to meet institutional security needs.” A short three weeks later, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, spoke about plans to use information gathered in a bipartisan probe of the insurrection to improve security at the Capitol both immediately and in the long term. “We’re going to have to make changes to security now,” she said. 

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Workers install more robust fencing along the east side of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday morning, January 7, 2021, following the riot at the Capitol the day before.

As a mother of three kids who regularly practice hiding from active shooters at school, I demand swift protective measures for the security of our children at school. Not only to protect them from catastrophic injury or death, but from the trauma of being hunted, the sound of gun fire, the screams of their classmates. Policymakers are demonstrating speed and commitment to change when it comes to their own personal safety. But what about our children?

Where is the ‘9/11-type commission’ to save our children? 

It has been almost 25 years since the National Rifle Association successfully lobbied Congress to cut government research into gun violence. In 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sponsored a database in conjunction with postgraduate researchers at the Center for Homeland Security. Not exactly a federal database on school shootings, but it’s the closest thing we have. The lack of study and federally cohesive information gathering intentionally thwarts change and action. Nancy Pelosi, where is our “9/11-type commission” to save our children from the kind of trauma our lawmakers just endured?

As I watched the insurrection at the Capitol, my mind conjured up images of our elected officials on their hands and knees in their pencil skirts and suit pants, ties dangling around their necks. I wondered if they were crawling, dizzy with panic, between padded chairs, fumbling to text loved ones. I thought about the day in May 2019, when my friend received a text from her son while he was in class at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. He sent, “There’s a school shooter I love you so much I love dad.”

I thought of the day I was caught in a lockdown in my first grader’s class, seeing their wide, silent eyes and shallow breathing as we sat in absolute silence amongst their snow boots and crayons.

As I watched the riot at the Capitol, seeing our lawmakers quaking in fear, I re-lived the morning of December 14, 2012 when I learned of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, less than an hour from our home in Connecticut. I remembered how I drove to my girls’ school and wept in my car, watching other parents lurk around school grounds as we ached to hold our children. An AR-15 was used at Sandy Hook Elementary, leaving 20 children and six staff members dead. Back then, I was sure that the murder of six-year-old children would create meaningful federal action, real gun reform. I was wrong.

childrens shoes capitol lawn gun violence
7,000 pairs of empty children’s shoes to memorialize the 7,000 children killed by gun violence since the Sandy Hook school shooting. March 13, 2018.

Now is the time for Congress to change

The last consequential federal gun control legislation was passed in 1994, an assault weapons ban that was first introduced by President Joe Biden when he served as a senator. A study done by the National Institute of Justice at the Department of Justice found that the number of gun crimes involving automatic weapons dropped by 17% in the six cities involved in the study during the ban. 

Despite that report, the ban was allowed to lapse a decade later. The federal government has failed to pass protective legislation aimed to thwart gun violence for the last 27 years, regardless of the climbing gun violence numbers. Instead, our lawmakers are getting particularly good at publicly sending “thoughts and prayers.”

I hope there may be a window of opportunity opened as a result of the insurrection at the Capitol; proximity is often the most powerful catalyst for change. Vermont Republican Governor Phil Scott had an “A” rating with the NRA – reflecting his voting record on gun rights – and was an active defender of gun owners until a planned attack at a Vermont high school was thwarted. 

At a press conference in 2018, Scott said “I support the Second Amendment, but I had to ask myself, ‘Are we truly doing everything we can to make our kids and communities safer?‘” He went on to sign gun control measures into law in Vermont.

Republican Rep. Brian Mast had a change of heart just nine days after the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. An AR-15 was used to kill 17 people, and wound 17 others, prompting the once avid proponent for the Second Amendment to call for thorough restrictions on guns.

The Capitol insurrection didn’t just “hit close to home” for lawmakers, it was literally beating down their doors. There was enormous potential for explosive gun violence the day of the insurrection – an alarming amount of weapons have been seized in the aftermath. 

It’s time for our policymakers to channel their passion for investigation and meaningful security measures for their own protection and pass common sense gun laws to protect our children. It’s time to finally take brave action to tighten gun laws, an action already supported by a majority of Americans. Will they allocate our nation’s children the same regard they have for their own lives?

I’ll be sending my thoughts and prayers as they decide.

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GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert was slammed on Twitter for bungling the basics of the Constitution

lauren boebert
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) on the House steps of the Capitol on Monday, January 4, 2021.

  • Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado was slammed on Twitter for bungling basic constitutional knowledge.
  • She said the Constitution was not meant to “rewrite the parts you don’t like.”
  • There have been 27 amendments to the Constitution since it was first ratified in 1788.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Freshman GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado has made headlines as a vocal and provocative defender of gun rights, but on Friday she was slammed by Twitter users for bungling a basic civics lesson.

Boebert, a self-professed champion of Constitutional rights, tweeted that “protecting and defending the Constitution doesn’t mean trying to rewrite the parts you don’t like.”

Her statement belies the fact that the document has changed and expanded multiple times, hence the additional amendments.

The Constitution, which was written in 1787, established America’s national government and fundamental laws. It was ratified by nine of the original 13 states in 1788.

When the Constitution was first drafted, the first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were not a part of the document. In December 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified.

There have been 27 amendments to the Constitution, which includes the Second Amendment, which guarantees a right to keep and bear arms, the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, and the 17th Amendment, which mandated the direct election of Senators in each state.

The blowback was swift.

Charlotte Clymer, the director of communications at Catholics for Choice, called out Boebert for her lack of knowledge about women’s suffrage.

“Lauren Boebert is a member of Congress and doesn’t understand that we have literally rewritten/revised the Constitution 27 times to do things like abolish slavery and, you know, extend the right to vote and run for office to women … like Lauren Boebert,” she tweeted.

Former South Carolina Democratic state Rep. Bakari Sellers made a reference to the television game show “Jeopardy,” tweeting “What are amendments for $200?”

The GOP congresswoman, who has expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory while denying that she is a follower, has previously gone viral for her pro-gun political statements, including the release of an ad where she indicated that she would carry her handgun on the Capitol grounds.

During a virtual meeting this week, Boebert sported a backdrop with multiple firearms while the House Natural Resources Committee debated a proposed rule to ban firearms in its hearing room.

Boebert ridiculed the move, even calling for Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, the committee chair, to issue a personal security detail for her if she couldn’t carry a firearm.

While members of Congress can keep firearms in their offices, they cannot bring them inside the House and Senate chambers.

“This rule is absurd and discriminative,” Boebert complained. “This is a blatant violation of our constitutional rights.”

Despite Boebert’s objections, the rule was approved by a voice vote.

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