A number of area residents urged Howard County to adopt Second Amendment sanctuary status, but it appeared that even if the county were to join the trend, it likely wouldn’t have much impact.
During last week’s meeting of the Howard County Commissioners, several individuals presented the board with a petition, asking that the county join a number of counties and municipalities across the nation that have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary status. The commissioners took no action on the request, instead taking it “under advisement.” But, according to Commissioner Paul Wyman, even if Howard County were to adopt such a status, it wouldn’t be enforceable.
“We currently have it under advisement. The challenge with the proposed ordinance is that it would be 100-percent unenforceable. So, usually, I’m in favor of passing ordinances or legislation that we can actually enforce in our community, and this would not be that type of legislation,” said Wyman.
That, said Howard County’s attorney Alan Wilson, is due to preexisting law.
In 2011, Indiana passed what is commonly known as the preemption statute. That law, according to Wilson, essentially means local Hoosier governments can’t regulate firearms.
“It essentially says local governments may not enact any type of ordinance or resolution that attempts to regulate guns,” said Wilson. “That would be permits, carrying, transfer, purchase, or anything having to do with guns or gun accessories or ammunition.”
Cheyenne McCall was the first to represent the group pushing for the sanctuary status before the commissioners. She presented the board with a petition, which was signed by about 1,100 individuals after it was circulated around a number of local businesses.
She said she wanted the commissioners to make Howard County a Second Amendment sanctuary specifically due to two bills filed in the Indiana legislature this year. Such a move, done through an ordinance or resolution, would aim to limit local law enforcement from enforcing new laws supporters view as restricting Second Amendment rights.
“I’m here today to propose a Second Amendment sanctuary ordinance pertaining to our rights as not only American citizens but Howard county citizens,” said McCall. “Regarding the events throughout our country and state, we the people feel as though we are currently under attack by legislators here in our state.”
The two bills McCall voiced concern about were Senate Bill 203 and Senate Bill 436, both of which were introduced during this year’s state legislative session. Senate Bill 203 would prohibit the sell, trade, or transfer of a regulated weapon to a person younger than 21 years old. That bill also would limit firearm magazines to 10 or fewer rounds and hasn’t passed out of committee. The other, Senate Bill 436, would allow the Indiana attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor over certain cases that local prosecutors were declining to pursue. It passed out of committee last week.
Most prominently, the Second Amendment sanctuary movement has taken a foothold in Virginia, where 91 of the state’s 95 counties have adopted such a stance. In Indiana only Jennings County has adopted such a status. There, however, the county commissioners didn’t pass such a resolution or ordinance. Rather, the county’s sheriff department signed a resolution pledging not to enforce what they saw as anti-Second Amendment laws.
That move has been declared largely ceremonial, and Wyman said he didn’t like the idea of making Howard County a Second Amendment sanctuary because it would also violate the preemption statute.
“I don’t want to do anything that would be in violation of that, but also the other thing that worries me a little bit is then we will have many organizations coming before us asking us to pass ordinances or resolutions supporting their organizations that would have no teeth,” said Wyman. “That’s why we kind of have it under advisement right now. We’re just thinking it through, because at the end of the day I’m a huge gun rights proponent, huge second amendment proponent, and that’s why it’s important to me that we work with the state legislature and federal government to ensure gun rights are protected.”
After last week’s meeting, McCall said her group likely would continue to push for such a resolution.
“This is possible to do,” said McCall. “We will continue to push this forward, and we encourage the people to be well educated about this topic, being of great importance.”