Renegade sheriffs are refusing to carry out extreme risk laws proven effective at preventing gun suicides, which make up two-thirds of all firearm deaths in the United States
Nine of the 10 Colorado counties with the highest gun suicide rates over the past 10 years have declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries”; refuse to enforce lifesaving gun laws
May 20, 2019— A new report by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, How “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” Are Threatening Lifesaving Gun Laws, reveals that “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” are putting communities at risk by refusing to enforce gun laws proven to save lives. As states have continued to pass important gun safety laws, including 67 new gun safety laws in 2018 alone, a number of renegade sheriffs stated they will refuse to enforce these measures. Giffords Law Center found that an overwhelming number of counties seeking to obstruct extreme risk laws, which are extremely effective at preventing gun suicides, have suicide rates well above state and national averages.
“These elected officials promised to fight for the well-being of their communities. Instead, they are fighting to protect the bottom line of the gun lobby,” said Kelly Drane, lead researcher at Giffords Law Center. “In more rural areas in states like Colorado, law enforcement officers need all the tools they can to help someone before a situation turns into a crisis. Extreme risk laws can make a lifesaving difference. These county politicians should stop attempting to usurp the role of the courts and acknowledge they are putting lives on the line just to score points. We hope this report opens the eyes of these officials so they understand that continuing to peddle falsehoods will only create more heartbreak and tragedy for our country.”
The sheriffs’ theory they can decide what does or doesn’t violate the Second Amendment does not follow the longstanding principle that the courts decide what the Constitution means, not law enforcement. Even worse, gun suicides, which make up two-thirds of all firearm deaths in the United States, can be prevented through the extreme risk law that sheriffs oppose. Connecticut’s and Indiana’s laws have both been shown to prevent firearm suicides—with one analysis showing that extreme risk laws reduce firearm rates by as much as 13.7 percent.
According to the report, nine of the 10 Colorado counties with the highest gun suicide rates over the past 10 years have declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.” 22 of the 24 sanctuary counties for which suicide data is available had gun suicide rates above the national average. Cluster County, for example, has the highest gun suicide rate in Colorado—three times the state average and nearly five times the national average. The county’s sheriff, however, says he believes the extreme risk law “contradict[s] the right to bear arms” and is unconstitutional.
Dangerous “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” are forming in states across the country. Nearly two-thirds of the counties in Illinois have declared themselves sanctuary counties. Likewise in Washington State, the police chief of the City of Republic in Ferry County claims the city “doesn’t have a giant crime rate because nobody in their right mind would come to a house where people have guns and know how to use them” despite the county having the highest rate of firearm suicides in Washington State, with residents dying by gun suicide at three times the state average.
The actions of these sheriffs can have dangerous impacts statewide. In New Mexico, more than three-quarters of the counties declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” after the state legislature expanded background checks. The move by the counties caused the legislature to stall an attempt to establish an extreme risk law, which could have benefited residents in rural counties with higher than average gun suicide rates.
Extreme risk laws create a civil court order, issued by a judge upon consideration of evidence provided by a family member or law enforcement officer, that temporarily prohibits a person in crisis from possessing or purchasing firearms. A common thread in many shootings is that family members of the shooter had noticed their loved ones engaging in dangerous behaviors and were concerned about their risk of harming themselves or others—even before any violence occurred. These laws enable those most likely to have information about the individual in crisis to take action.
- Blog Post: Gun Laws Are Constitutional and Save Lives. Law Enforcement Officials Must Enforce Them
- Memo: Extreme Risk Laws and Their Role in Reducing Gun Violence
- Blog Post: Debunking the Gun Lobby Myths About Extreme Risk Laws
- Op-Ed: I’m a gun owner. I support the Second Amendment. We need to pass the Deputy Zackari Parrish III Violence Prevention Act.