POWELL — Park County is now a “Second Amendment Preservation County.”
Responding to citizens’ concerns about gun control measures the Biden administration may pursue, county commissioners and Sheriff Scott Steward issued a Tuesday declaration “strongly” supporting citizens’ inalienable right “to keep and bear arms for the defense of life, liberty and property.”
“Given what’s shaken out in the new administration east of here, a lot of folks in the county, a lot of folks in Wyoming are concerned about … federal overreach,” Commission Chairman Lee Livingston said. “And we here in Park County are pretty adamant about what the Second Amendment spells out.”
The elected officials said they were passing the resolution “to defend the rights and liberties of the citizens of Park County.”
Commissioners did not go as far as leaders in some Wyoming counties and other parts of the country that have dubbed themselves Second Amendment “sanctuaries” and declared they won’t enforce any laws or regulations that infringe on gun rights.
“My concern is, if you’re a sanctuary county, you get to determine exactly what you’re a sanctuary for,” Livingston said of preferring “preservation county.”
So-called “sanctuary cities,” for example, are municipalities where local officials refuse to fully cooperate with federal officials to enforce immigration laws.
“If you’re a sanctuary for the Second Amendment, what if someone comes forward and says, ‘Well, hey, I want us to be a sanctuary for marijuana?’” Livingston asked. The chairman joked that he’d “like to see us be a sanctuary county with the grizzly bears and wolves, as far as prosecution for ‘managing them.’”
The Park County Commission’s resolution was based on one approved in Johnson County last month, with a couple changes. Most notably, Johnson County commissioners included a provision saying they were prohibiting any county funds or personnel from being used “to abridge the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms” under the state and U.S. constitutions. That line was struck from Park County’s version.
Both counties noted that their citizens “have a historical and cultural relationship with firearms for economic, recreation, hunting and shooting purposes.”
During its recent session, the Wyoming Legislature considered a bill that would have effectively declared the whole state a Second Amendment sanctuary.
Senate File 81, the Second Amendment Preservation Act, aimed to invalidate any “federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, court orders, rules and regulations” in the past or in the future that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms.” The act also barred public employees — including police — from assisting in the enforcement of any unconstitutional federal actions and created stiff potential penalties for those who do. As introduced by Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, the bill included a process by which law enforcement officers found to have violated a citizen’s gun rights could be fired and barred from the profession in Wyoming.
That section regarding officers was removed in the heavily modified version that passed the Wyoming Senate 24-6, but the measure never got a hearing in the House — despite an effort by Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, to revive Bouchard’s original version.
While saying it supported the general concept of the Second Amendment Preservation Act, the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police (WASCOP) and Steward had raised concerns with the way the bill was initially worded.
Commissioner Livingston said there were worries it could limit law enforcement’s ability to protect people.
“If you took it to the Nth degree and said if a law enforcement officer scooped up a gun in a domestic violence call,” he said, “then he’s infringing on the Second Amendment rights of that person — and they (the officer) could be held liable and be charged on infringing on that person’s Second Amendment rights.”