Greene County declares itself a Second Amendment sanctuary

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On Feb. 4, the Greene County commissioners voted to make Greene County a Second Amendment sanctuary. Greene County’s decision follows neighboring Fayette County, which adopted its own resolution March of last year.

According to Mike Belding, Greene County Commissioner, Second Amendment sanctuaries are counties, boroughs, or towns where the local government decides not to enforce some or any federal or state firearm laws. 

“A Second Amendment sanctuary is a city, county, or other jurisdiction that has adopted a resolution or ordinance declaring that restrictive gun control laws passed by a higher legislative body, such as the federal government or a state legislature, violate the Constitution and will not be enforced in that jurisdiction,” Belding said. 

Sheriff Marcus Simms said that Greene County law enforcement is in agreement with the resolution. 

“As all other elected officials, we swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Simms said in a press release. “This resolution reaffirms to our constituents that we, at the county level of government, intend to stand by that oath.”

Belding said that the cooperation of law enforcement is important for the resolution to work.

“The fact that enforcement is involved, heightens the importance of having law enforcement and the District Attorney in agreement with the resolution,” Belding said.

He stated that the decision to declare Greene County a Second Amendment sanctuary came partly as a reaction to new firearm laws in Virginia. Last year, Virginia successfully passed several new laws, including limits on handgun purchases and universal background checks, as announced in a press release from Governor Northam’s office. Belding said that this did not go unnoticed by Greene County residents.

“Greene County residents have been watching national trends and took a keen interest in the restrictions imposed by the State of Virginia last year – referring to increased restrictions on firearm and accessory ownership. Constituents have increasingly asked about becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary,” Belding said. “We weighed the benefits and risks, consulted with other counties and gained valuable legal advice from our seasoned solicitor and made the decision to become a Second Amendment sanctuary.”

The decision to become a Second Amendment sanctuary is not unique to Greene and Fayette counties. According to Belding, there has been an increase in Second Amendment sanctuaries nationwide due to concerns over restrictive firearms laws.

“Second Amendment sanctuaries have multiplied over the past few years due to threats of stricter laws and the banning of specific weapons or accessories, like high-capacity magazines,” Belding said. “More than 1,200 jurisdictions in 37 states have adopted resolutions opposing the enforcement of state and federal laws that violate the Second Amendment.”

The resolution comes at the same time that the Biden administration pushes for stricter firearm laws.  

“Today, I am calling on Congress to enact common sense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets,” President Biden said in a press release on Feb. 14, the three year anniversary of the Parkland mass shooting.

However, Belding said that Greene County has not received any pushback from the state or federal government. Further, he said that the feedback from Greene County residents has been positive.

“We have not heard anything from any state or federal government officials. We have however had inquiries of other counties wishing to explore the same opportunity,” Belding said. “There has been significant positive feedback and very sparse negative [from residents]. Actually, I would say no negative feedback, just some individuals asking questions as to what it means- more inquisitive rather than negative.”

Belding said that the resolution is intended to give residents peace of mind that the county officials will protect Greene County residents’s constitutional rights. To him, this is not a political issue.

“The adoption of this resolution is not intended to be a political issue or statement. If it is an argument at all, it should be a constitutional law argument as to content and intent, not a political argument,” Belding said. “The bottom line is that nothing has changed, we simply want to keep and protect the rights that are currently afforded firearms owners. It is a constitutional right given by the Founding Fathers almost 250 years ago and should not be infringed upon.”