Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
The Washington County Board of Supervisors plans to vote on a resolution declaring the county a Second Amendment sanctuary next week, a measure all five board members expressed support for.
The move would make Washington the fifth county to pass such a motion in the state after Jasper, Hardin, Madison and Cedar Counties did so in July.
“This resolution basically just reiterates that the Second Amendment is an individual right of people to choose, if they choose, to defend themselves,” Board Member Jack Seward Jr. said. “We’re protecting that choice.”
Seward said the resolution was a formal statement of the governing body’s opinion, not an enforceable protection of rights.
“There’s no enforcement mechanism in it, there’s no punishment mechanism in it, it’s really just a statement of our support,” he said. “We are to represent our constituents, the people that elected us, and so that’s what we do.”
Seward added at one point that the resolution was aimed at what he saw as a risk of unchecked executive orders.
“This has nothing to do with impeding enforcement of current law,” he said during the meeting. “It has nothing to do with expanding anybody’s rights, it has to do with saying we respect the Constitution of the United States. We respect the Bill of Rights, and we think that the laws that come to us should come through the regular legislative process and not just an executive order from on high.”
He later amended that statement, in line with the drafted resolution’s wording, which does target legislation.
“If there’s legislation that is passed that can be questioned as unconstitutional, then I think we have the responsibility to do that,” he said after the meeting. “If somebody passes a law that appears on its face to be unconstitutional, my oath is not to enforce unconstitutional measures, my oath is to remain loyal to the Constitution.”
Several critics of the resolution spoke during a public comment period at the meeting.
“When people think of coming to Washington County, it’s because it’s a kind of quiet, peaceful place,” Washington County resident Linda Sturdevant said. “I see where you’re going with it, but I am concerned that it could also speak to people who want to come down for a visit, or to shop, or to move here, and it might change their attitudes about the place.
“Not everybody who has a gun should have one … and I have a feeling it would be the wrong kind of advertising as far as economics, entrepreneurship, getting visitors into the county.”
Board member Stan Sloops disagreed, saying counties that took similar action last month hadn’t seen ill effects.
“I don’t see them changing,” Sloops said. “I don’t think this is going to be a county where you see people walking around gun-toting. I think what we’re going to see is just exactly what it is now.”
Board Chair Richard Young said the motion wouldn’t change perceptions of the county.
“I eat breakfast every Saturday at the Frontier, and since that open carry law was passed, there’s guys that come in there carrying their gun,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me, I know that they have it, I know that, I know them. You talk about gun violence, gun violence is something that, in my opinion, the press has come up with certain things.”
Washington County resident and gun owner Susan Fisher said she thought the law would encourage people who shouldn’t have guns.
“What I’m afraid of is, there are some nut jobs out there, and I think this will embolden the nut jobs to go into Walmart, grocery stores, restaurants, movie theatres, just carrying their guns because they can. That’s not an environment that I would want to shop in or go to a restaurant in … I just don’t think it makes us a safer, better community and attracts the kind of businesses and people that we want.”
Seward said the resolution wouldn’t protect those people.
“We’re not giving any sanctuary to any criminal activity whatsoever,” he said. “Those things are already against the law. This resolution does not do anything to change that. We are for the police, we are for the equal protection of everybody. It’s not gun violence, it’s violent people, those are the ones that need to be addressed.”
Young backed Seward’s argument, saying gun regulations would only jeopardize law-abiding gun owners’ rights, not fix issues Fisher mentioned.
“A gun cannot do anything unless a person acts upon it,” he said. “It is an issue of people who disrespect other peoples’ lives … take Chicago, they have some of the strictest gun laws in the United States. The people that are up there that are shooting people every weekend, they don’t care what the law says … very few people that carry guns are violent people, like the stuff you see on TV. All we’re doing is trying to do is protect.”
Fisher said she did not perceive a threat to the Second Amendment.
“There’s no danger to the Second Amendment whatsoever,” she said. “It would take two thirds of Congress and something like 35 of the states would have to ratify it. The Second Amendment is not under threat.”
County resident Gwen Ying agreed.
“Why is it necessary if people can already carry their guns?” she asked. “Why do we have to label something a sanctuary? What is it protecting? Sanctuaries are usually protecting. Usually to me it’s preserving people’s lives, and their rights are already protected by the Second Amendment.”
Board members cited “recent proposals” for gun control as threats to the Second Amendment but did not reference any specific examples in response to Fisher or Ying.
The board is scheduled to vote on the resolution Tuesday, at its regular meeting in the Washington County Courthouse at 9 a.m.