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Trendwatch: Extremist Sheriffs Leading Efforts to Protect Guns from Laws

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A number of extremist sheriffs are declaring their counties sanctuaries for guns, rather than enforcing the laws they were elected to uphold. Our latest edition of Gun Law Trendwatch breaks down what you need to know.

For decades, local governments have declared themselves sanctuaries for individuals fleeing persecution in their home countries. Relying on the protections granted by the United States Constitution, these local governments refused to enforce federal immigration laws.

In a perversion of the notion of “sanctuary,” a number of rogue local sheriffs are trying to make their cities and counties sanctuaries for guns, not people. These sheriffs are refusing to enforce state gun laws they don’t like, despite the fact that these officers have taken oaths to enforce such laws.

One such sheriff is Tony Mace, chairman of the New Mexico Sheriff’s Association, who claims residents of his county are entitled to “sanctuary” TWDLTLI-215from several new gun violence prevention laws enacted this session. New Mexico’s new laws ensure that all gun purchases are subject to background checks (a policy supported by nine out of 10 Americans) and allow judges to temporarily disarm individuals proven to be a danger to themselves or others. Similar laws in other states have survived legal challenges and been proven constitutional.

Appointing himself both legislator and judge, Sheriff Mace declared the new laws unconstitutional and unenforceable. And this blatant disrespect for the rule of law isn’t limited to New Mexico—efforts to declare sanctuary for guns are underway in counties in nine states, including Colorado and Illinois.

Rather than declaring their cities sanctuaries for guns and gun industry profits, sheriffs should focus on keeping the residents they’ve sworn to protect safe from the ever-growing scourge of gun violence.

Read the full roundup here, or check out this summary of where gun safety legislation stands in states around the country today.

Gun Violence Prevention Bills

At least 20 states currently have legislation pending to strengthen or enact background checks.

  • Washington HB 1465 passed both chambers.
  • Minnesota HF 2792 passed the house.
  • New Hampshire HB 109 had a hearing April 30.

At least 21 states have bills pending that would close domestic violence loopholes that allow abusers to access guns.

  • Washington HB 1517, HB 1225, and HB 1786 were sent to the governor.
  • Oregon HB 2013 passed the house.
  • Texas SB 666 passed the senate.

Extreme risk protection order bills are pending in at least 23 states.

  • Hawaii SB 1466 passed both chambers.
  • Indiana HB 1651, which would strengthen existing law, passed both chambers.
  • Washington SB 5027, which would strengthen existing law, passed both chambers.
  • Minnesota HF 2792 passed the house.
  • California AB 61, which would strengthen existing law, passed a committee.

At least 8 states have bills pending to allocate or protect funding for community-based urban gun violence reduction strategies.

  • California AB 18 passed a second committee and has a hearing May 1, AB 166 passed a committee, and AB 656 passed a committee and has a hearing May 1.

Dangerous Gun Lobby Bills

Dangerous bills to allow guns in school or on campus are pending in at least 22 states.

  • West Virginia SB 441 was enacted April 16.
  • Florida SB 7030 passed the senate.
  • Texas SB 243 and SB 811 passed the senate and SB 117, HB 1288, HB 3946 and HB 1143 all passed a committee.
  • Arkansas SB 383 was enacted.
  • Indiana SB 119 and SB 127 passed conference committee.
  • Oklahoma HB 2336 passed a senate committee.
  • South Carolina SB 293 passed the senate.

Reckless permitless carry bills are pending in at least 9 states.

  • Idaho HB 199 and HB 206, which further weaken the state’s existing permitless carry law, were enacted April 2.

Defensive Victory Highlights

So far in 2019, the gun violence prevention movement has defeated bills to weaken concealed carry permitting laws in seven states; to allow guns onto local and state property in six states; to arm teachers and other civilians in K–12 schools in seven states; and to allow concealed carry without a permit in four states. Other defeated gun lobby–backed legislation includes bills that would force businesses to allow guns in parking lots in one state; to bring guns onto the campuses of colleges and universities in six states; and to enact or expand “stand your ground” laws in four states.

As state governments around the country begin to wrap up their legislative sessions and the NRA descends further into disarray, activists and courageous legislators continue to keep up the fight to enact lifesaving gun laws and defeat dangerous gun lobby bills.


About Trendwatch: Distributed biweekly during the state legislative cycle, Gun Law Trendwatch rounds up and analyzes trends in state gun legislation, documents important victories, and monitors the gun lobby’s activity in legislatures across the United States.