The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is bigger than some people want to admit.

Even before they took office, the new Democratic majorities in the Virginia legislature announced sweeping new gun control measures.

Even before the lawmakers took office, Virginia towns and counties were proclaiming themselves to be Second Amendment Sanctuaries where the new laws would be ignored.

As it stands right now, nearly 90% of Virginia counties have declared their sanctuary status.

Image for post
Image for post
Chart created by Bill Cawthon © 2020

Legal experts and scholars have weighed on the legality of the sanctuaries. All are pretty much in agreement that the resolutions are legally meaningless. Counties in Virginia do not have the authority to defy the state government.

Governor Ralph Northam has said he will use the Virginia National Guard to enforce the new laws, if needed. Ironic for a state where the motto is “Sic Semper Tyrannis” or “Thus ever to tyrants.”

What the experts, scholars, and Governor Northam don’t seem to understand is that the people in these counties don’t need resolutions, they can just ignore the new laws and nobody will care (except in Richmond).

Let’s say a state trooper or a Virginia National Guardsman arrests a citizen for a violation of one of the new state laws. The case must be filed in the county in which the arrest was made. Let’s further assume that Governor Northam has deposed the sheriff and district attorney, replacing them with his toadies.

The case must still be tried by a jury. That jury must be made up of citizens from the county in which the charge was filed. The jury votes to acquit — every time this happens. Theres nothing the Governor or his toadies can do.

If Northam removes a sheriff and replaces them with an appointee, an election for a new sheriff must still be called. The people of the county simply vote in another sheriff who will refuse to enforce the law.

At this point, Governor Northam’s political future isn’t exactly rosy. He can either be regarded as a tyrant or a pushover and neither one of those is likely to inspire voters. Especially if he is a failed tyrant whose agenda was overthrown by the citizens of his own state.

Incidentally, a resolution was introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates calling for the governor to schedule a vote on the matter of allowing Virginia counties that share a common border with the Mountain State to leave Virginia and become part of West Virginia.

People who dismiss Second Amendment Sanctuaries probably don’t know much about them or have any idea how much the resistance to new gun laws has grown. The charts below will provide some idea of how the movement has spread. The counties in dark green are all Second Amendment Sanctuaries; those in light green are counties where the sheriff has said the new laws won’t be enforced. The number of counties adopting Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions is growing so fast, I have to update the map every week.

Image for post
Image for post
Chart created by Bill Cawthon © 2020

People might wonder why traditionally gun-friendly states like Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Utah don’t have more of these counties. The simple answer is that none of these states are particularly at risk for restrictive gun laws.

Note that over half the counties in Illinois and Washington state are sanctuaries.

Nevada enacted a universal background check law this year. There isn’t a sheriff in the state that will enforce it.

But that’s really okay. Because laws like universal background checks are impossible to enforce. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. In a 2013 National Institute of Justice memo, Dr. Greg Ridgeway, the institute’s deputy director, noted that universal background checks cannot be effective without universal gun registration. A more recent study by Dr. Garen Wintemute on new universal background check laws in Colorado, Delaware, and Washington state came to the same conclusion.

If the results of registration laws in Connecticut and New York state are anything to go by, registration isn’t in the cards in the United States.

In any event, the background checks we already have in place haven’t proven to be all that swell. Since federal background checks became required in February 1994, 635 people have been murdered and 1,131 others have been wounded by mass shooters that passed background checks.

The Second Amendment Sanctuaries also won’t be enforcing laws restricting “assault weapons” or “assault rifles.” There’s a good reason for that: they really pose no threat to the safety of the American people.

It’s estimated that American private citizens own about 17 million rifles like the AR-15 and AK-47. How many have been used in mass shootings? Going by the Mother Jones list of such things and adding in incidents prior to 1982, the total is 68, as best I can determine. That figure includes the 22 in Stephen Paddock’s Las Vegas hotel room and a couple of incidents where the killers brought such rifles but didn’t use them. That’s going back 55 years to 1964, when the Colt AR-15 Sporter went on sale.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the increase in the use of these rifles has less to do with the rifles themselves and more to do with the glorification they have received in the media and from gun control advocates. People who know something about firearms often get a chuckle out of the hyperbolic descriptions of these guns or how legislators can ban one gun and approve another when they are exactly the same except for cosmetic features that have nothing to do with the gun’s function.

Even in the larger world of murders beyond mass shootings, rifles play only a small role. More people are murdered by killers using their bare hands than by killers using rifles. In fact, the average annual number of murders committed with rifles in the years since the Assault Weapons Ban expired is about 20% lower than it was during the ban, according to the FBI.

How about restrictions on magazine capacities? Where did that figure of a 10-round maximum come from, anyway? This was the question posed by U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra during the hearing on California’s confiscatory ban on “high-capacity” magazines in the case of Duncan v. Becerra. Becerra wasn’t able to provide an answer, either about the 10-round limit or why there should be any limits at all on standard magazine capacity sizes. That’s one of the reasons the California law was declared unconstitutional.

That’s the thing about Second Amendment Sanctuaries. They’re not opposed to gun control, per se; they’re opposed to bad gun control laws that don’t deliver anything but excuses when they fail to deliver the promised results. And that pretty well covers everything on the current gun control agenda.

Look back up at the chart at the lower image. Legislation was introduced earlier this week to form a nine-state Second Amendment Sanctuary Compact. If such an arrangement came to be, it would be a not only serious challenge to federal gun control regulation but it would set the stage for a constitutional showdown between the federal government and the sovereignty of the states.

Never forget that the United States isn’t like other counties with political subdivisions. The U.S. is a federated republic of 50 sovereign states which hold absolute authority over the federal government’s powers. Remember the Tenth Amendment: all powers not granted to the federal government remain with the states and the people.

It is already well-established that the federal government cannot compel a state to enforce a federal law. The state is free to withhold any assistance including funds, assets or personnel, to help the federal government enforce the law. The federal government cannot compel any state official to enforce a federal law, either. Nor can it withhold any allocated funds to compel compliance.

The state cannot legally prevent federal officers from enforcing the law but the feds depend on cooperation and assistance from state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies. If they can’t get it, their job becomes much harder even if they focus on nothing else.

The Second Amendment Sanctuary Compact goes beyond that, however, to a direct challenge to the supremacy of federal law.

In the Compact legislation is a provision that a firearm made within a state, using only components made in that state, is not subject to federal law as long as the firearm is clearly marked that it can only be sold in the state in which it was manufactured. This is a challenge to the limits of Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause.

That gauntlet has already been thrown down. Alaska became a Second Amendment Sanctuary state in 2010. It hasn’t been tested in court as of yet, but any ban fan anticipating an easy slam dunk may want to temper their expectations a bit.

Those who embrace immigration sanctuaries while dismissing Second Amendment sanctuaries (or vice versa) has a little problem: Law enforcement isn’t a buffet. You either enforce all the laws or you’re willing to tolerate some laws not being enforced and you’re not the only one who gets to make the choice. Incidentally, in my opinion this works both ways.

Dismiss the Second Amendment Sanctuaries if you wish. But this is what happens when enough people say “No.”

Professional writer. Passionately interested in facts. Founder of

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store