Even before one gets to the heart of the matter – namely, a) constitutional law, and b) the dangerous message of lawlessness and violence the concept conveys – it must be stated that there is something fundamentally incongruous and just plain wrong about the idea of a “gun sanctuary.”
Merriam-Webster offers multiple definitions for the word “sanctuary,” but none of them references the protection of human killing machines. Instead, it employs phrases like “a consecrated place such as the ancient Hebrew temple,” “the most sacred part of a religious building,” “the room in which general worship services are held,” “a place of refuge and protection,” and “a refuge for wildlife where predators are controlled and hunting is illegal.”
The word “sanctuary” is, quite clearly, a word of peace, freedom from violence and even sacredness. To apply it to a movement that seeks to defy the common good and even democratically enacted public laws for the purpose of making it easier to acquire and possess machines used to kill 100 Americans every day and 36,000 per year  borders on blasphemy.
What’s next – a national park dedicated to the preservation of toxic chemicals? A monument on the national mall that celebrates virulent diseases?
Sadly, though, as we’ve seen in so many other areas of 21st Century discourse, the modern political far right has no shame when it comes to twisting and mangling basic concepts to abet its objectives (a phenomenon perhaps best exemplified on a daily basis by the laughable use of the phrase “fair and balanced” by the propaganda machine known as Fox News).
And so it is that the so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary” movement is having a brief fling in the political limelight. Here in North Carolina and in several other states around the country, local governments have – at the behest of cynical national manipulators and confused local activists – been passing resolutions declaring themselves areas in which duly enacted state and federal gun control laws will not be enforced.
Among many other things, one can’t help but be struck by the rank hypocrisy involved in such schemes. After all, the people behind these proposals are, by and large, the same ideological conservatives who lobbied for and helped pass state legislation a few years back that forbade local governments from passing laws to regulate firearms, raise the minimum wage or protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.
Now in a Tillis-like 180 degree flip-flop, the same crew is all about preserving the precious right of “local control.”
Of course, as noted above, the real issue here is one of constitutional law. Simply put: local governments don’t get to decide what the Constitution says when it comes to enforcing criminal laws. As the Los Angeles Times explained in a recent and on-point editorial :
While states may have powers unique from the federal government’s, no such duality exists at the municipal level. Cities have only the powers granted to them by their states.”
The editorial goes on to point out that there is also a crucial difference between the gun sanctuary movement and the immigrant sanctuary movement on which it is obviously and perversely based. Federal immigration laws are civil in nature and local governments are fully within their right to decline to spend public dollars enforcing them.
The 2nd Amendment sanctuary movement, by contrast, involves local authorities seeking to negate state criminal laws governing who can own a firearm and under what conditions. Those are laws that are by definition supposed to be enforced by local police agencies.”
Delusional as the proponents of the gun sanctuary movement may be about basic constitutional principles, what’s most troubling about this new development is its clear and reckless message of violence and lawlessness. Refusing to abide by or enforce duly enacted criminal laws – especially anti-violence laws – is the kind of behavior one associates with failed states ruled by armed militias and gangs. It’s the grim reality of Afghanistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, not the world’s greatest democracy. Sadly, it’s also the action of extremists devoted to cockamamie ideas like secession and “nullification.”
The whole thing is made even more surreal by the fact that it is being driven by the political right. This is, after all, the same movement – from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush – that has repeatedly made “law and order” a top campaign refrain.
Today, if there was ever any real doubt about it, that mantra has been shown to be a fraud – a convenient curtain behind which to hide the obvious belief that, as Orwell might have put it, some groups and some laws are more equal than others.
What caring, thinking and patriotic people do in the days ahead to say “no” to this perverse and provocative movement will say much about the health of the American experiment and its long-term wellbeing.