On February 10, 2020 seven Republican representatives in Mississippi introduced a first-of-its-kind bill that raises the possibility of a so-called Second Amendment Sanctuary region stretching from Oklahoma to West Virginia. The sanctuary policy framework popularized by efforts to protect undocumented immigrants from federal immigration enforcement is now being used by sectors of the Right to inoculate gun owners and prevent passage of gun control measures such as universal gun background checks, assault weapon bans, and red flag laws. Hundreds of city councils and county commissioners have passed so-called Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions and ordinances across the country since 2018.
If passed, Mississippi House Bill 753 would establish an interstate commission across nine southern states to “protect the right of people to keep and bear arms”; exempt certain firearms from state and federal regulation; declare certain federal statutes, rules and regulations unconstitutional and unenforceable in the region; and require the attorneys general in the states to prevent implementation of a federal statute, regulation, rule or order that violates the rights of a resident of a compact state. The proposed states include Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Alabama.
Some of the first recorded Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions popped up in Munroe County, Illinois in May, 2018, according to Political Research Associates, but rapidly spread through other states. The resolutions and ordinances have passed in states where a Democratic legislature has either passed or discussed passing a red flag law, which would entrust law enforcement to confiscate firearms from people deemed a threat. Now there is a website called sanctuarycounties.com dedicated to tracking the hundreds of second amendment sanctuary resolutions and ordinances introduced and passed across the country.
But prior to this recent wave of so-called second amendment sanctuary resolutions, bills to nullify federal gun laws were introduced locally in 38 states in 2013. At the time, the bills were introduced to pre-empt presumed federal gun restriction laws the Obama administration discussed passing in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting in 2012.
The Tenth Amendment Center, an ideological home for the nullification movement founded by libertarians, published model resolutions and bills to introduce a gun rights sanctuary at the local level, and a ban at the state level. During the Obama administration, protecting the right to keep and bear arms was also taken up by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), a national network of local law enforcement formed in collaboration with Oath Keepers and other far right organizations that sought to undermine the regulatory bodies of the federal government. One of CSPOA’s campaigns during the Obama administration focused on empowering local sheriffs to sign agreements to uphold the Second Amendment, regardless of state or federal restrictions. Their campaign garnered signatures by over 500 sheriffs across the country from 2014-2016.
House Bill 753 closely draws on this history of local and state-wide nullification efforts to oppose federal and state gun restrictions, but also represents a substantial advancement within the sanctuary policy framework. It would be the first ever interstate commission to oversee a sanctuary policy across multiple states.
In order to take effect, the bill would require approval by at least six governors in the proposed interstate commission within eighteen months. Two of the nine states in the proposed commission are represented by Democratic governors. The bill was authored by Mississippi State Representative William Tracy Arnold (R-District 3), and co-authored by state Reps Larry Byrd (R-District 104), Lester Carpenter (R-District 1), Dana Criswell (R-District 6), Steve Hopkins (R-District 7), Vince Mangold (R-District 53) and Jansen Owen (R-District 106).